Comedy is a fickle business and a biopic on almost any successful comic act would surely include a section on the inevitable falling out of favour with public tastes. Laurel & Hardy were no exception, and Stan & Ollie, a BBC Films co-production, ostensibly focuses on the latter part of the duo’s career, when the film roles had dried up and a theatre tour of the United Kingdom was arranged out of desperation to revive their popularity.
Screenwriter Jeff Pope – who specialises in historical British dramas such as Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman (2005), See No Evil: The Moors Murders (2006), and Philomena (2013) – centres the film around the friendship between the two performers just as much as he does their material. This is sensible, given how dated the slapstick routines have become over the better part of a century. We witness a few sketches being rehearsed and performed on stage. The skilled re-enactments are faithful to the original but seem twee by today’s standards.