(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
Me and My Pal is hardly Laurel and Hardy’s greatest short subject, but it’s a pretty good acid test as to whether you “get” L&H or not. At the conclusion of this slight but funny L&H piece, my wife said, “Why is Ollie kicking the puzzle around, like it’s the puzzle’s fault?” Due to statements like this one, I try not to watch L&H movies with my wife.
The movie revolves around two plot elements: (1) Ollie’s impending marriage, which will make him a son-in-law to a rich oil magnate (James Finlayson!) and secure his future wealth; and (2) a jigsaw puzzle that Stan gives to Ollie as his idea of a big wedding present. (This is, after all, the man who brought hard-boiled eggs and nuts to a bedstricken Ollie in County Hospital.) Stan’s rationalization is, “Well, you’ll be at home nights more, and I thought it would be something for us to play with” (emphasis mine).
Ollie, of course, dismisses the thought of “such childish folderol” — until Stan starts working on the puzzle and Ollie gets caught up in it. Eventually, the puzzle draws in the cab driver, a policeman, the future father-in-law, and a telegram delivery boy, whose “important telegram for Mr. Hardy” Stan shoves into his pocket so that he can continue with the puzzle.
Eventually the puzzle-puzzling ends in a free-for-all, with everyone carted off to the hoosegow save Stan and Ollie, who found good hiding places. Stan happens to remember the telegram and hands it to Ollie; it turns out to have warned Ollie to sell some valuable stock immediately. Ollie turns on the radio just in time to find out that the stock’s value has plunged to zero. But Stan finds a bright side; just as he’s leaving, he finds the final missing piece of the puzzle. Ollie responds by throwing Stan out on his ear and kicking the puzzle all over the room in frustration, causing L&H illiterates to wonder why he’s blaming it all on the puzzle.
Again, it’s not L&H’s greatest work, but Me and My Pal has that comedic gift for taking the mundane and turning it into an obsession — the sort of thing we like to think we have risen above, until we actually succumb to it…kind of like Laurel & Hardy, I suppose.