Laurel and Hardy are Flying High
Laurel and Hardy made a lot of movies together, some shorts, some features, some where they were the stars others where they just popped up in supporting roles but for those who have never watched a Laurel and Hardy movie "The Flying Deuces" is a good place to start. It's by no means the best Laurel and Hardy movie ever made but it has all the classic elements in particular plenty of slapstick and by 1939 the duo were so tight that every joke works perfectly. It does suffer from a middle which seems to drag a little but as an introduction to the genius of Laurel and Hardy it works and paves the way for their better movies.
Whilst holidaying in Paris, Stan and Ollie meet innkeeper's daughter Georgette (Jean Parker - The Gunfighter) and Ollie falls head over heels in love with the attractive woman. But unbeknown to Ollie Georgette is already married and when she rejects his proposals it causes him to lose the will to live. Desperate to forget about the woman who broke his heart Stan and Ollie join the French Foreign Legion but soon realise that the tough regime is not for them and try to leave, but leaving the Legion is not that simple.
In many ways "The Flying Deuces" feels like a re-imagination of an earlier short that Laurel and Hardy made, the four reel "Beau Hunks" from 1931, as the storylines have the similarity of Ollie suffering romantic rejection and so with Stan head off to join the French Foreign Legion to forget about the woman he loves. That is where the similarity ends because "The Flying Deuces" sees Laurel and Hardy quickly grow tired of the tough regime and try and leave, leading to a keystone cop style chase sequence before as the title suggests a flying scene. Whilst a surprisingly solid storyline it does have one problem and that is it drags a little during the middle section as we watch Laurel and Hardy realise that the French Foreign Legion isn't for them.
The thing about "The Flying Deuces" is that it starts well with some classic Laurel and Hardy slapstick especially with a scene which sees Stan Laurel repetitively bang his head as he tries to have a wash. And it ends brilliantly with some impressive stunt work in a plane mixed with that keystone cop style chase sequence. But other than a pleasant rendition of "Shine on Harvest Moon" at one point the middle section seems to struggle to really spark to come to life. There is still some good slapstick but it just feels drawn out
But the thing about "The Flying Deuces" is that by 1939 Laurel and Hardy had been working together for over a decade and made a lot of movies together and to say their routine is tight is not to give it it's full credit. Every single visual gag is timed perfectly so that you can't but help smile at their interaction and even the verbal gags are strong, subtly sneaking in to make you suddenly smile. But it's also beyond just their chemistry because even a repetitive gag such as Stan banging his head never grows dull because in-between a tiny bit of variation and knowing when enough is enough it leaves you will a smile rather than a groan.
What this all boils down to is that "The Flying Deuces" is a wonderful example of why Laurel and Hardy are still movie icons. The actual movie may suffer from a middle section which almost feels like it is treading water but every single gag be it a moment of visual hilarity or a subtle one liner brings a huge smile to your face. And the comic timing is so impressive, so slick that it's hard to do justice to what a class double act Laurel and Hardy were.