Stan & Ollie Parent Guide
A charming and uplifting story of an enduring comedy partnership.
Parent Movie Review
Stan & Ollie is a biopic covering the final tour of the comedy duo Stanley Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver “Babe” Hardy (John C. Reilly) in 1953 in the British Isles. The film, however, starts in 1937, where we find the pair at the peak of their careers, famous the world over, but struggling under their separate contracts to make ends meet. Here the seeds are sown for the conflict that will emerge much later in the film. Stan is convinced he can negotiate for a better deal or leave, whereas Oliver feels he cannot make a change as he is still under contract.
Cut to Newcastle England in 1953, where the duo is on tour, though a falling out is alluded to as they confide in their wives about what it’s like to be getting to know each other again. The tour starts out rough, with small theaters, smaller crowds, and an incredibly annoying tour manager, Bernard (Rufus Jones). But it’s all geared towards the goal of getting a British movie producer to come to their show and sign a new Laurel & Hardy movie: “Robin Hood”. In order to turn the tour around they start to do publicity all over the country, and in an Indiana-Jones like travel sequence (complete with map and red lines) we see the fruits of their labor with more shows, larger audiences, and better travel accommodations. Ah, success. What could possibly go wrong?
As their wives, Lucille Hardy (Shirley Hendersen) and Ida Laurel (Nina Arianda) come to visit their show in London, the story of what happened sixteen years ago comes to light, and Stan and Oliver finally confront each other about the reasons behind their split. An even greater threat to their continued success, however, is Oliver’s worsening health. Their friendship and loyalty are tested and proven as these comedic geniuses figure out if letting go or moving are still options.
Brilliantly acted by each of the four main characters, I couldn’t decide which relationship or dynamic I loved more: that of Stanley and Oliver, or of Lucille and Ida. The message wasn’t didactic, and the movie didn’t pick a side. Both marriages, while very different, were happy, loving, and successful. Coogan and Reilly are hilarious, as are Hendersen and Arianda.
For Stan and Ollie, the line between performance and reality is often blurred, and whether they do it to amuse themselves or those around them is unclear. And perhaps it doesn’t matter. The film takes us back to a time when comedy was simple and universal and shows what it means to have a complex friendship. And this trip manages to be both charming and uplifting.Directed by Jon S. Baird. Starring John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release January 25, 2019. Updated March 28, 2019
Watch the trailer for Stan & Ollie
Stan & Ollie
Rating & Content Info
Why is Stan & Ollie rated PG? Stan & Ollie is rated PG by the MPAA for some language, and for smoking
Violence: There is some comedic slapstick humor.
Sexual Content: A married couple cuddles on a bed together.
Profanity: One mild sexual expletive is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Characters drink and smoke throughout the film. A previous addiction is alluded to, and the wives of one of the characters drinks alcohol for him to protect him. It isn’t a focus, and isn’t positively or negatively portrayed. The drinking is done socially, and the smoking is ubiquitous.
Page last updated March 28, 2019
Stan & Ollie Parents' Guide
This movie explores the idea of loyalty, even beyond what might be reasonably expected of someone. Do you think there is a point where loyalty at the detriment of your own success is no longer a virtue? What, if anything, can justify disloyalty?
The marriages in this film are unlike most marriages found in movies. Why do you think that is? Was there a couple you identified with more? The wives seem to be the catalyst for conflict and communication for the duo. How else do these strong female characters impact the plot?
Stan & Ollie has a very positive portrayal of strong, supportive, protective, and loving women. And yet the film does not pass the Bechdel Test. Is that a necessary requirement for a film to be considered empowering for women?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Simon Louvish’s double biography, Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy not only tells the life stories of the comic duo, it also describes the entertainment world of their era.
Looking for the history behind Laurel and Hardy’s trip to England? Try AJ Marriot’s Laurel and Hardy: The British Tours.
If you want the best one-liners from the comedy duo try Laurel and Hardy: Quote Unquote by Neil Grant.