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Another L & H Wartime Disappointment
The second and last of Laurel & Hardy's MGM wartime comedies,NOTHING BUT TROUBLE sadly suffers from the similar faults that plagued AIR RAID WARDENS a year earlier.There are elements of the plot which are perhaps unconsciously reworked from far superior Hal Roach efforts,such as PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES (Stan and Ollie shielding a child) and A CHUMP AT OXFORD (swanky dinner parties),but this is often sabotaged by sluggish pacing and some overly excessive pathos which seems totally alien to the L & H style of humour.Like the previous AIR RAID WARDENS,Stan and Ollie again come out with some uncharacteristic,self-pitying dialogue accusing themselves of being 'failures',attiudes which would have never seen the light of day in their Roach films.The all-round comic genius of Stan Laurel was ignored as all their post-1940 features and prevented from improving a script which most certainly would have needed his personal embellishment.Stan himself looks pretty unhappy and dispirited in the film as a result,as does Babe Hardy.
The production does not look as glossy as the previous AIR RAID WARDENS,but it's pleasing to see one or two characteristic L & H moments abound (Ollie even says 'Here's another nice mess...' to Stan at one point),but they are somewhat fleeting.Mary Boland,an actress who specialised in fluttery society matrons,actually provides the most amusement in the film's most assured performance,but Sam Taylor,a capable comedy writer/director,struggles with the uninspired, hackneyed material on offer,like stealing steak from a lion's cage and a rowdy football game.The aforementioned scene seems a partial reworking in material from THE FRESHMAN,a silent classic starring Harold Lloyd,a performer Taylor frequently collaborated with.It doesn't work especially well (with the ageing,unathletic L & H looking rather uncomfortable),as does the high-rise building climax which seems a borrowing from another Lloyd classic,SAFETY LAST,made somewhat obvious by background projection.A rather glum sub-plot of an evil royal uncle trying to kill off his young nephew king further reduces opportunities for fun,and this takes up far too much footage.The black comedy elements in L & H films worked very well when executed in an appropriate context;it doesn't work here because of the weak storyline and material.One last point;Eddie Dunn,an occasional foil for the comedians at Roach,appears as a cop in the flophouse sequence,but this is all too brief and only very slightly,like the whole film,recalls their glory days at Hal Roach Studios.
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