Laurel & Hardy biopic marked by two sterling performances

John C. Reilly (left, as Oliver Hardy) and Steve Coogan (as Stan Laurel) star in “Stan & Ollie.”

Steve Coogan’s one of my least favorite actors.

I especially hated him in the foodie/buddy flick “The Trip,” but I’ve also suffered through several other of his films.

John C. Reilly doesn’t make my list of faves either. Although he wasn’t bad in “Chicago,” I absolutely despised his being paired with Will Ferrell in “Step Brothers” and the earlier “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and so many, many other hammy roles.

Imagine my gemütlich surprise, then, when I found myself loving both their performances in the bittersweet, touching biopic, “Stan & Ollie.”

Reilly’s fat-suited, unrecognizable, near-perfect physical transformation into Oliver Hardy is breathtaking. As it should be: It took him four hours in the makeup chair each day to prepare for the role.

And both stars must be commended for beautifully replicating the physical ticks of a beloved comedy team.

Watching signature bits I remember fondly from my childhood was the best part of the tender, nostalgic movie for me. But interesting, too, even when not compelling, was the underlying story of Hardy’s “can’t live with you, can’t live without you” relationship with his klutzy reel-life sidekick, Stan Laurel, who in real-life was a compulsive slapstick-gag creator.

Their loving bond, riddled with rough patches and ancient hurts, can make you choke up if you let it — especially at Reilly’s line, “You loved ‘Laurel and Hardy’ but you never loved me.”

Sadly, the film’s not doing well at the box office: The San Rafael theater in which I watched it with a chum was virtually empty the other night. Catch it before it disappears into the ozone (or, believe it or not, Bay Area snow).

“Stan & Ollie” is playing at the Century Regency in San Rafael, Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco and United Artist’s Stonestown Twin.

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Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →