2 January 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Am very fond of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. They were very funny and amiable performers with memorable personalities that really shone when the material was good, which it mostly was. It is very easy to understand their appeal and why they are so fondly remembered. Also really love them together as a partnership, which is deservedly legendary from when it had fully formed in the late-20s.
'Air Raid Wardens' agreed really isn't one of their best efforts. For me actually, it is one of their lesser ones and doesn't do any kind of justice to the duo. It is not terrible overall, but it is bad Laurel and Hardy. After liking to loving many of their previous films, with a fair share of classics, their post-Hal Roach period saw quite a big decline and all their weaker films (the worst of which quite bad) were made during this period. It has to be said though that for me and other people this is one of the better and more watchable films of theirs from this period. Not much of an endorsement though.
There are pluses. It actually looks very professional and nicely made. The crude editing that was there in some of the later Hal Roach period is not here in 'Air Raid Wardens', it was clearly shot with care and love and the production design is nicely done.
Lesser Laurel and Hardy still have moments and 'Air Raid Wardens' does have them. The Edgar Kennedy sequences and Laurel with a gas mask come off best and are amusing in a mild sort of way. The houseowner fight is the closest the film comes to evoking the older outings. Laurel and Hardy do their best and their chemistry does shine in places (not enough), some of the physical comedy is nimble. They are also used much better than other post-Hal Roach period outings of theirs, actually feeling like leads.
Not consistently enough though. Laurel and Hardy are used better than in other post-Hal Roach period outings of theirs, but their personalities, what made them famous and what was so appealing about them are not there enough either, they are rather bland and too nice here. As well out of character and tired, with much of their classic chemistry lost. There are no standouts in the rest of the cast other than Edgar Kennedy and against type Donald Meek (which he handles well). Laurel and Hardy don't gel very well in the wartime setting either, or at least in the films with it made during the post-Hal Roach period where Laurel and Hardy's humour was far less innocent than before. Here, it did feel like the subject was treated far too seriously and it felt somewhat heavy-handed.
In terms of the story, that is severely wanting in 'Air Raid Wardens'. Will admit straight off the bat that the story was never a strong suit in Laurel and Hardy, tending actually to be the asset that came off least. Even for Laurel and Hardy however it is very threadbare with a rather dull first part, while also feeling like an over-stretched short film and a series of not particularly well-executed sequences (on the whole) strung together. The atmosphere is lifeless throughout and the ending felt tacky. One of 'Air Raid Wardens' biggest problems is that other than a few moments, it's just not very funny. The script is trite with some dumb one-liners and some of the humour is overplayed.
Summarising, watchable but disappointing. 5/10 Bethany Cox