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(Sadly, I missed another day yesterday, thanks to an unpleasant misadventure that spoiled my creative mood, but I’m back for the home stretch. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for an epic simile, a more detailed and flowery comparison like those of Homer and Milton.)

As when the soldier staggers home to stay
And greets the eyes of wife and son and daughter
With satisfaction that his time away
Has made them safer from the tides of slaughter,

Or as the shrewd inventor lays his last
Concluding touch upon the work of years
With satisfaction that the future vast
Will see his name alive among his peers,

Or as the farmer tends his fussy field
To balance needs of water, sun, and shade,
With satisfaction seeing labor yield
The fruits that prove his knowledge of his trade,

So did the two comedians on stage
Endure each other’s kicks and pokes and taunts,
Still satisfied as crowds of every age
Would laugh and share what every showman wants.

MPA rating: PG

While I consider myself a cinephile, I must admit I have never seen any of the dozens of films in which Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy starred, though I think everyone recognizes their names as icons of comedy. Yet even with my limited knowledge of the bowler-hatted duo, I can tell that Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy do a marvelous job replicating their acclaimed slapstick down to their physicality, which is made obvious when the actual Laurel and Hardy are shown during the end credits. While an early scene (with one of those marvelous tracking shots that I love) shows them in their Hollywood prime, most of the film is set in 1953 when the pair were struggling to capitalize on their former fame through a music hall tour of the UK and Ireland. Having had a falling out years before, they attempt to recreate their comedic chemistry on stage, while dealing with sparse opportunities, old resentments, and Hardy’s failing health.

At first, the comedy routines recreated by Coogan and Reilly seemed too simple and quaint, but as we see audiences howling with laughter at their antics, it became clear just how far modern comedy has strayed from its humble roots and how much easier to please and impress audiences were in decades past. Yet their high jinks do have an innocent charm that comes through here, even as the film shows the discord and physical strain that was only visible offstage. Reilly is especially game wearing a fat suit, but both leads are excellent while never showboating; the same is true for Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda as their wives, who have their own odd-couple chemistry while clearly caring for their husbands’ welfare. By the end, there’s a feeling of triumph in something as simple as a vaudeville dance, highlighting how rare and lovable their partnership was. Even if you haven’t seen the original Laurel and Hardy, Stan and Ollie makes clear their understated talent and bond, a small but sweet testament to two comedy legends who shouldn’t be forgotten.

Best line: (Stan Laurel) “You know, when you watch our movies, nobody else in the stories knows us, and we don’t know anybody either. It was just the two of us. All we had was each other.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2022 S.G. Liput
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