A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Way Out West is a 1937 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy comedy set in the old West. It contains some guns and shooting, mainly in a comical vein, as well as comical arguing, struggling, and fighting. A vase is smashed over a character's head. In one scene, the heroes try to speak to a lady in a stagecoach, but their attentions are unwanted; later, her offended husband chases them off. There are some brief African American stereotypes. Saloon dancers show off their legs and flirt with customers. Casual, social drinking and smoking is shown, and even our heroes smoke cigarettes. Despite some iffy material, though, this is considered one of the duo's best movies, with some big laughs and the delightful "At the Ball, That's All" dance sequence.
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What's the story?
In WAY OUT WEST, Stan (Stan Laurel) and Ollie (Oliver Hardy) journey to Brushwood Gulch to find Mary Roberts (Rosina Lawrence) to deliver the deed to her father's successful gold mine. Unfortunately, Mary has been in the care of the nasty saloon owner Mickey Finn (James Finlayson) and his wife, singer Lola Marcel (Sharon Lynn). When the villains learn of the nature of the errand, Lola pretends to be Mary to intercept the deed. But Stan and Ollie discover the truth and try to grab the deed back, but to no avail. So they must return at night and stage a daring rescue that's not without its comic pitfalls. Will Mary get what's rightfully hers?
Is it any good?
While not exactly high art, this Laurel and Hardy feature is brisk and silly and charming in all the right ways, and its dance sequence is one of the most delightful moments in all of screen comedy. Early in the movie, as the boys arrive in Brushwood Gulch, they pause to listen to the Avalon Boys performing "At the Ball, That's All," and they commence a-dancing, showcasing their splendid comic poetry and synchronization and connection. As for the rest of the movie, Way Out West busily rushes through its plot setup, establishing the villains, the victim, and the MacGuffin that everyone is after.
The rest of the movie is spent tying up these threads with a wide array of gags, some of which are hilarious, others of which are worthy of a smile or a giggle. One of the best scenes is also the simplest. Stan gets his hands on the deed and secures it inside his coat, while the villainous Lola tries to get it back -- by tickling him. Stan's uninhibited peals of laughter are totally contagious, and it's difficult not to laugh hysterically along with him. Overall, Way Out West lacks the careful construction of a comedy by, say Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, and it's even a little less rambunctious than their earlier Sons of the Desert, but the talent and charisma of its two stars are still undeniable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Way Out West's use of violence. Does it feel like there's anything at stake when violence is committed? Is there pain? Are there consequences? Is the violence funny?
How are guns viewed? Are they dangerous? Do they look like fun?
How does it feel to watch the scene with Laurel and Hardy and the woman in the stagecoach? How do each of the characters view this uncomfortable interaction? How could the situation have been better handled?
How does the movie depict drinking and smoking? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences?
Has Laurel and Hardy's humor become dated? What parts are still funny? Why?
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