A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stan & Ollie is a biopic about legendary comics Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) that focuses on the time near the end of their careers, as they went on a tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland. It helps if viewers already know the duo's work -- The Music Box (1932), Sons of the Desert (1933), and Way Out West (1937) are highly recommended -- but there's enough funny stuff here to hopefully appeal to newcomers, too. And overall it's a sweet, gentle movie that's funny and touching. Expect some slapstick violence -- such as falling or throwing things -- and some arguing. Language includes a use of "damn" and a use of "smart ass." Married couples kiss and snuggle in bed, and divorce is mentioned. Cigarette smoking is fairly prevalent (accurate for the era), as is social drinking. Drinking is referred to as something that's potentially bad, and wives try to keep husbands from doing it.
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What's the story?
In STAN & OLLIE, legendary screen comedians Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are filming their great comedy Way Out West in 1937. Despite their huge success, both are short on money, due to the miserly contracts that Hal Roach (Danny Huston) has them under. Stan tries to argue for better treatment but fails. Years later, in 1953, the now aging comics are on their own and have embarked upon a stage tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland, hoping to secure funding for a new Robin Hood movie. At first their shows are small and poorly attended, but with a little publicity, the crowds grow. The pair's beloved wives, Lucy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda) join them. But the funding for the movie falls through, and the old friends get into a big fight over a long-simmering grudge. Will this be the end of Laurel & Hardy?
Is it any good?
This gentle, sweet story of two of cinema's most legendary comics is a small delight, a warm hug of a movie with superb, spot-on performances, some big laughs, and genuinely touching moments. Inspired by -- and focusing on -- the duo's late-career theatrical tour, Stan & Ollie changes the timeline a bit but succeeds by staying focused on the characters and their love for one another. It includes one crucial, bravura sequence from their early days for perspective but otherwise avoids the usual biopic trap of trying to tell an entire life story in one movie. This film is, instead, full of lovely, dear moments that are worth cherishing.
The two leads are almost shockingly good; they look and sound just like the real thing and have amazing chemistry together. It's almost too bad they didn't re-create more of Laurel & Hardy's classic comedy routines. And Henderson and Arianda are equally superb as the wives; they have their own bickering, hilarious, touching relationship outside of their relationship with their husbands. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jeff Pope (Philomena) and director Jon S. Baird -- whose last movie was the polar opposite Filth -- are behind this affectionate film. Its only real downside is that younger kids who don't (yet) know Laurel & Hardy's work may find it difficult to fully appreciate their swan song. But the funny parts are funny enough to appeal to just about anyone.
Talk to your kids about ...
Were you familiar with Laurel & Hardy before seeing this movie? Did it inspire you to learn more about them?
What does the movie have to say about show business? How is it possible to be successful and not have any money?
How are the female characters portrayed in this movie? Do they have agency, or are they seen in the context of their husbands?
- In theaters: December 28, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: March 26, 2019
- Cast: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson
- Director: Jon S. Baird
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, History
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some language, and for smoking
- Last updated: January 17, 2020
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