Woody Weingarten

Reviews, etc.

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.

 Contact Woody Weingarten at www.vitalitypress.com/or voodee@sbcglobal.net.