A colleague of mine, knowing about my love of Buster Keaton and especially Charlie Chaplin asked what I thought of Laurel and Hardy. I had to admit to him that I’d never actually seen one of their films and he helped to rectify that by lending my Sons of the Desert, a film which he told me was one of their most accessible. Laurel and Hardy make a pledge that they will go to the Sons of the Desert Convention in Chicago but have trouble convincing their wives to let them go. After sweet talking fails to work they resort to deception but trouble is waiting for them when they get back home.
For my first Laurel and Hardy film I was mildly impressed but not left with an urge to see more of their work straight away. I enjoyed the story and the characters are great but I didn’t laugh that much. Rather, I had a satisfied smile on my face which only broke into laughter on a couple of occasions. The naughty little boy act was quite fun and Oliver Hardy’s looks to camera were something that seemed familiar to me despite never seeing one of his films before.
The Laurel and Hardy characters themselves felt familiar and aspects such as the look to camera, scratching head and trademark long faced gurn were all recognisable due to their lasting legacy. I was also able to see more modern comedians and characters such as Ricky Gervais and Red Dwarf’s Kryten in their characters. The chemistry and character relationship was also instantly recognisable and I never had a doubt as to whose role was whose. Because the characters are so entrenched in stone when Stan Laurel for instance starts using extremely intricate and convoluted words the surprise turns into laughter. The plot itself doesn’t feel that fresh today but is nonetheless a good set up for a comedy. The various forms of flattery and deception they try are fun to watch and Laurel’s cock-up’s create a lot of the comedy, slight though it may be. The boys seemingly never ending decent into trouble when their wives finally catch up with them is fantastic to see. You can’t help but feel for them and almost want to shout at the TV, telling them to can it because they’re only digging themselves a deeper hole. There was plenty of slapstick too which I generally like. Some of it was great while other times it missed the mark.
A quick dig around IMBd finds lots of 10/10 reviews which I personally feel is far too high. That being said I did enjoy the film and it certainly had its funny moments. For me though there weren’t enough and the film didn’t feel as slick or well crafted as the Chaplin comedies such as City Lights and Modern Times which were made in the same period. I'm sure though that there will be Laurel and Hardy fans though who consider this a better film than those though. On the whole the acting was good but the sound wasn’t great and a scene where you are able to hear rain in one shot and not in the next before hearing it again felt careless. Overall I did enjoy my first Laurel and Hardy film and wouldn’t mind giving them a go again but for now I’ll stick with The Tramp.