Stan and Ollie is a biographical drama about two Hollywood comedy greats in their twilight years, touring Britain to pay debts and possibly jumpstart their creative partnership.
Based on the lives of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the film tracks their farewell tour which starts precariously in small clubs as audiences seem to have moved on from their comic style which involves physical humour, set pieces and songs. During the tour both performers must come to terms with past decisions, and resentments.
The distributor sent it in for classification in June 2018 with no request. Key issues in the film are very mild upset and emotional plot lines about a character’s failing health and some mild bad language.
In line with BBFC Classification Guidelines the two clear uses of mild language - an exasperate use of ‘bloody’ and a character described as an ‘ass’, prompted the BBFC Compliance Officers to recommend PG. At U the BBFC Guidelines only allow infrequent use of very mild bad language - following previous research with UK parents.
The Compliance Officers also noted a scene where a character collapses and is then very unwell. There isn’t any medical gore or strong detail, and the emotional impact of the scene is affecting but not intense in a way that would be problematic for younger viewers.
Given the time the film is set, there are also several scenes which depict characters smoking cigarettes. Though our research with the public shows no appetite for raising films out of their natural category due to smoking we are mindful of representations of characters smoking cigars and cigarettes especially in films aimed at children. Given the smoking reflects the period settings and shows adults rather than children or young people smoking Compliance Officers noted it in the ratings info for the film, so that parents would know it was there and could consider it before choosing to take children to view it.
Throughout the film several sequences reproduce or mimic Laurel and Hardy’s well-known and remembered slapstick scenes and skits. As such they show mild pain, accidents and stage business where characters are bopped or fall over but it is clearly a comic context that even young children would understand - much like that in the original films they are recreating.
The BBFC classified many of Laurel and Hardy’s original features and short films in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s including Way Out West (1937), and Another Fine Mess (1930) both given U, which at that time meant most suitable for children’s matinee performances. One of their most iconic shorts Big Business (1929) was classified many years later by the BBFC, also at U, with the ratings info reading noting ‘mild slapstick’.
We classified Stan and Ollie PG for mild bad language, with the longer insight noting which words were used, the smoking and the sequence where a character has a ‘funny turn’ which signals the start of a period of illness.
The film was selected for the Into Film Festival 2019.