In the canon of Laurel & Hardy dual-role movies, Brats falls about midway between the highbrow hi-jinks of Our Relations and the nails-on-a-blackboard gratiness of Twice Two — nothing profound, but it goes down easy enough.
As generations of L&H biographers have pointed out, with Laurel and Hardy portraying “themselves” and their own children, Brats takes L&H’s child-like-ness and makes it a little too literal. But it does offer some interesting insight as to how the same qualities we find endearing in our children, we sometimes regard as “brattiness” in other people’s kids. Notice the shots where either Stan or Ollie acts as though he supports the other adult and then makes faces to his kid, behind that adult’s back. (Interesting, too, that in their day, Laurel & Hardy could still be considered “lovable” even when Ollie is yelling at kids and calling them “brats.” These days, that kind of behavior would probably get him a call from Child Services.)
Just as interesting as the sociological perspective are the simplistic special effects, which still satisfy in the era of Star Wars. Ollie Jr., on an outsized movie set, throws a block at Stan Jr., and it hits Ollie on the “regular” set. Buster Keaton couldn’t have done it more seamlessly.
And of course, there’s the usual fun characterization, which here demonstrates that, even as a parent, Stan just doesn’t get it. (His latest words of wisdom to Ollie are, “You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be lead”; and at one point, he threatens the kids that if they don’t behave, he’ll have to go to bed.)
This all makes you realize that Brats is the only movie depicting Stan and Ollie with natural offspring. Short of immaculate conception, how could it happen? One critic who saw the Disney cartoon A Goofy Movie, (1995), about Goofy and his adopted son Max, turned purple when he jumped to the mistaken conclusion that Goofy had had sex. One can only guess what heights of apoplexy this critic would reach about Brats.