This brisk, lively comedy features marital power plays and actual violence in addition to slapstick violence, but strong chemistry between the legendary funny duo still generates big laughs. Directed by William A. Seiter, Sons of the Desert gets away with things other comedies of the period cannot, largely because it was made before the Hays Code was implemented, but also because it was a different time. Many of the jokes are about the inequalities of men and women in marriages, with the men pretending to have power, but actually afraid of their wives' wrath. The women characters are not painted with much sympathy -- Ollie's wife throws cookware at his head and Stan's wife brandishes a rifle and goes duck hunting -- though it's implied that everyone is happily married.
The screenplay focuses on quite a few deceptions and accidents -- in one scene, a fellow son of the desert (Charley Chase) prank-calls his sister, who turns out to be Ollie's wife -- as well as some silly wordplay ("honesty is the best politics," etc.). But the real comedy comes from the subtle, physical pantomime between the two friends. Stan is happy-go-lucky, but teetering on the point of breaking down in tears, while Ollie is like a rotund ballet dancer, a master of the slow-burn when injustice rears its head. The opening scene in which the pair tardily try to join their lodge meeting is, in particular, full of uncontrollable giggles. Overall, Sons of the Desert does not quite rise to the level of masterpiece, but it's an extremely well-constructed collection of gags by two performers at their peak.