Below Zero

Film Review by Dean Duncan Sep 10, 2015

The boys are street musicians, playing just outside the Deaf and Dumb Institute. Understandably, they are not having a lot of luck. This is wildly impolite. Inappropriate, I was going to say, but then decided not to. What do you think? How would your afflicted loved one feel about a joke like this? Or, if you have disabilities, which are partly a burden and partly a snug and well-fitting custom, how do you feel?

We’re reluctant to opine when it comes to race or incapacity, aren’t we? That’s good. And, maybe, not. Tact and courtesy are so important! They can so easily turn into coddling, or condescending and oblivious idealization. Isn’t being mean to your buddies sort of a sign that they are your buddies?

The point is that comedy can’t be too polite, can it? Anyway, I love how they count down, every time, before they start playing. At one point Stan falls over that keyboard that he’s playing. He gets up from the ground with the most agonizing, the most amazing slowness. Later an annoyed neighbour lady throws the instrument into the street. A very slow moving vehicle approaches it, very slowly. Then it very slowly runs it over. Stan, Stan & Ollie could have intervened, stopped the vehicle, at least pulled the thing out of harm’s way. They do not do so, which is to say that they are either indescribably stupid, or utterly without the optimism that inspires effort, or that they conduct their lives according to a code of honour that is positively Quijot-ian, in both its delusional nature and its inspiring nobility.