I'm not sure if you have to be a fan of Laurel and Hardy to appreciate this film fully but I'm certain that it helps. I must have been into my 40s when the penny finally dropped and since then I've found their films just about the funniest ever caught on celluloid, repaying repeated viewings.
This is a labour of love and respect towards the incomparable duo, covering a late stage of their career which has been little documented, on what turned out to be their final live tour of all, through Great Britain and Ireland in 1953, 16 years after the height of their popularity (making 'Way Out West' in Hollywood) and now, in an attempt to revive their fading careers, initially playing to sparse audiences in small English and Scottish venues, though this somewhat improves later. The impetus for their tour is to help finance a projected film of theirs on Robin Hood. (Writer Jeff Pope plays fast and loose with the facts here, but it does give the film a purposeful framework).
The transformations of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly into the pair is beyond remarkable, and through them credibly carries the whole film.
There are flawless re-creations of some of the double act's most famous encounters on film, now replayed on stage, yet beneath the laughs there's a very evident layer of melancholy, even sombreness, which actually pervades the entire film.
The friendship between L & H has become frayed at the edges, perhaps with over-familiarity, resulting in regular bickering, though one never loses sight of the recognition that they will always need each another, and they know it.
Their wives (Nina Arianda as Mrs L; Shirley Henderson, Mrs H) come over from America to support them and, though they are loving enough to their respective spouses in expected fashion neither seem particularly enthusiastic towards their husbands' efforts.
It's a strong script (by the aforementioned Jeff Pope - book by A.J.Marriott) and direction by the Scottish John S.Baird is exemplary with no flagging or excess fat, coming in at a satisfyingly concise 97 mins.
Among the many locations is a five-minute scene in my current home town, Worthing (a beauty contest in the Lido), actually shot here on the seafront, this town's name being mentioned twice!
Watching the film was a bitter-sweet experience, perhaps with fewer laughs than I'd been expecting, but that's because it was so effective in depicting the pain beneath surface.
I liked this as much as I'd hoped I would, despite not having expected it to have been as dark as it was. The film's title gives no clue as to this angle being taken but it is a worthy contribution towards the duo's history on a little regarded stage of their careers - and it does them credit..................7.5.
13 minutes ago