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Stan & Ollie

9/10

Stars: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Rufus Jones, Danny Huston

Director: Jon S Baird

A sweet and affectionate portrait of comedy legends Laurel and Hardy in the twilight of their careers together, when they visited England for a theatrical tour destined to end in London.

The beloved comedy duo, whose films still make people laugh today, are astonishingly well embodied by Coogan and particularly by Reilly who, with the help of a fatsuit, is the spitting image of Oliver Hardy.

Stan is always 'on', while Ollie, or Babe as he's known to friends, prefers the quiet life, with excursions to the local racecourse. But problems brought on largely by his weight are beginning to catch up with him.

After a prelude in 1937 Hollywood (more of this would have been welcome), we see them arrive in Newcastle on a wet night for their first English engagement in 1953. Playing to half-empty theatres at first - with smarmy impresario Bernard Delfont (Jones) expecting to end the tour long before London - the pair are simply so good that they are soon drawing packed houses on their journey southwards.

A spectacular welcome greets them in London, where they play the Savoy and have a rare falling-out, which both men regret.

Although Coogan and Reilly rightly take centre stage, their wives, brilliantly played by Arianda and Henderson, are almost a double-act in themselves.

Reilly doesn't always nail Georgia-born Hardy's speech inflections - he would have said goil and poil instead of girl and pearl - but otherwise both actors have their characters' mannerisms right down to a T. And the warmth of their 25-year relationship is superbly brought across on screen. It's full of touching, expertly observed - and funny - moments.

David Quinlan

UK/USA/Canada 2018. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour (unspecified).
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Jan 2019