Stan & Ollie (2018): ‘Slapstick Friendships’ – A Film Review



The history of comedy film used to be a lot more sweet than sour. Key stars of the start of early cinema are still well remembered today: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the other slapstick heroes Laurel and Hardy. Where many of the silent slapstick stars struggled to make their way to sound cinema Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Ollie’ Hardy made the jump and continued to make many films together through the 1930s and 1940s. They created many iconic lines: “Well that’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into”, “Why don’t you keep your big mouth shut?”, “Tell me that again” and “Why don’t you do something to help me?”, whilst many screams, cries and tears also make up their comedic repertoire. Their visual tricks were well trained, over the top and performed with a lot of amazing timing. Making use of exaggerated or cartoonish violence and accidents, whilst being able to use much of their attire (hats, ties and hair) for comedic affect also. They helped to define and develop slapstick and many modern comedians owe a lot to this pair. It’s actually surprising that a film like Stan & Ollie wasn’t made previously.


A Note on Tone

Surprising though it is, this film is perhaps less a comedy and more of a drama. Though there are references and nods to their routines and comedy, they’re usually packed within singular scenes that are performances to an audience. The heart of the film and indeed its concern is the drama of friendship. Despite being friends and colleagues, what is their story? What were their troubles and what does it mean to be friends with another performer? Thematically reminiscent in some ways to The Wrestler, it’s actually an emotional watch. It’s not a straight forward loving tribute relying on their comedy, and those looking to see such a tribute may be dismayed by the over reliance on certain Laurel and Hardy skits (They use one dance repeatedly throughout the film).


The Acted Biography

Depicting real people, in fact, real stars is not an easy task. Laurel and Hardy are characters in their own rights that have become so iconic that their moves and accents are easily recognisable. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are good actors and aren’t small at all. Their performances are extremely close to Laurel and Hardy but they’re almost too recognisable in these roles. When Robert Downey Jr. played Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin, he was a relative unknown and this made the performance he gave so much more powerful. Despite this minor distraction, they carry the weight of this film and sell the audience on both the emotional intensity of the film and the believability of the characters. As certain replicated films can show, they manage the roles and moves extremely well.



Not exactly the comedy and not exactly the straight forward biopic, Stan & Ollie is an emotional drama in tribute to loving friendship. Friendship in face of all else and it uses the ends of these stars life as a basis. Fortunately, it’ll still make for a good tribute to these masters of comedy and can still present these laughs as well as this darker underlying drama. Capturing the spirit of the times and the real life actors isn’t an easy feat and stands as well deserved achievement for the creators who made it possible. It just has its own context, its own agenda, aside from being Laurel and Hardy.



After their hay day Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are on tour in Europe as they prepare for their come back film.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Chaplin (d. Richard Attenborough UK/France/Italy/Japan/USA 1992)

Stan & Ollie (d. Jon S. Baird UK/Canada/USA 2018)

The Wrestler (d. Darren Aronofsky USA/France 2008)


Further Reading

Official Site

Interview with Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly

Interview with Cast and Crew

Interview with John S Baird, Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly

Behind the Scenes

On the Research


The Immortal Laurel and Hardy

Oliver Hardy Make Up

Best of Clips

Wonderful Slapstick of Laurel and Hardy

Infectious Laughter


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This was an analytical review of….

Stan & Ollie (d. Jon S. Baird UK/Canada/USA 2018)

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