12/2/16

A CHUMP AT OXFORD - REVIEW


Laurel & Hardy star in A Chump At Oxford, a feature released in 1940 in which a reliably down-and-out Stan and Ollie go to an employment agency and try out a couple of different jobs before realising that what they really need is an education.

They first attempt a butler and maid job with Laurel pretending to be the maid, of course. A shambolic dinner party ensues as they unsurprisingly trash the classy gathering, and they are soon chased out at gunpoint. After unwittingly catching a bank robber who bumps into them when trying to flee while they were working as street sweepers, Stan and Ollie are offered a job by the thankful bank manager but, since they lack a proper education, he enrols them at Oxford University instead and they are promptly off to England. There, they somehow get lost in a garden maze where some undergraduate students play a bunch of pranks on them. This lands everyone in trouble with the Dean but then we discover that Stan is in fact Lord Paddington, an exemplary athlete and scholar who once lost his memory when a closing window hit his head. Another bump on the head quickly turns Stan back to his old self and Ollie is forced to suffer the consequences.

A Chump At Oxford was originally a 40 minute-long short but it was later stretched to feature length. The whole dinner party scene doesn't exactly add anything to the main plot, which is paper thin, but it includes some of the film's best moments. Essentially, this is three Laurel & Hardy shorts played together back to back and it feels like it. Having the entire thing take place in Oxford University would have made more sense, especially with that title. Some of the gags in this one last a little too long and it's not all gold but there are some funny moments, for sure, especially near the end when Stan/Lord Paddington treats Ollie like a manservant. Laurel & Hardy regular Jimmy Finlayson (aka the angry moustache guy) plays the dinner party's host Mr. Vanderveer and look out for a young Peter Cushing in a minor role as one of the undergraduate students.

While fans of the legendary comedy duo will have a decent time with this one, it's definitely not one of Laurel & Hardy's best and it feels a little unfocused and slight. I wouldn't say it's essential viewing but even at their worst, these guys are enjoyable to watch so you won't regret checking it out.

Average outing.

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