Directed By: Michael Winterbottom
Written By: Michael Winterbottom
In many ways The Trip is one of the last films you would ever peg for the sequel treatment. With its initial premise being two comedians traveling around England while dining on some fine cuisine it leaves you very little to expand upon. Somehow though its basic framework works in its benefit.
Unlike most comedies there is no insane concept like an epic hangover or fish out of water storyline that needs to be replicated. Just two comedians given the opportunity to be funny, and not surprisingly Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take full advantage of that opportunity. With a small case of diminishing returns and some unearned dramatic beats The Trip to Italy does not quite reach the level of the original. Still, it is a film that will both whet your appetite and tickle your funny bone in all the right places.
Similar to last time Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon both play fictionalized versions of themselves. This time instead of traveling around the quant British countryside they are making their way through Italy’s scenic landscapes. In six days they will travel to six different cities tasting the finest cuisine Italy has to offer.
The Trip became infamous for Coogan and Brydon’s hilarious impressions, especially the classic Michael Caine scene that has clearly become its most iconic moment. Smartly they revisit that moment early on, and while it does go into some unexpected directions it does not live up to the promise of the original. Mocking the incomprehensible dialogue of Dark Knight Rises is tired territory by now. Coogan and Brydon undoubtedly make it funny with their off the wall impressions. It is simply hard not to expect more from them.
Luckily there is plenty more to make up for that letdown. Coogan and Brydon play off one another so wonderfully. Their dynamic is like the perfectly balanced with Coogan being the more cynical and Brydon the more good natured, but they refrain from becoming too much of a cartoonish odd couple. They share similar worries about their life and career. The joy becomes seeing how they approach those issues differently.
Brydon and Coogen do a lot of pontificating on their own mortality and as would be expected their focus is on what people will remember about their career after they are gone. There is an unspoken competition between them. If the other succeeds there is a natural feeling of resentment. We see this when Brydon is trying to audition for a part outside his comfort zone. Coogen plays the scene perfectly like a younger brother being forced to sit through his sibling’s birthday party.
Another moment that demonstrates this is my personal favorite scene. What may become the new ‘Michael Cane’ moment. Brydon playing the part of British talk show host that is grilling Coogen on his career’s place among other British comedians. It is a moment that is at times unconformable to be a part of, but also hysterical to witness.
Where The Trip to Italy stumbles is when it tries to add dramatic weight to all the funny voices. Brydon’s character especially took a turn that was uncomfortably out of character. This trip we see him dealing with his own family issues, but those issues never fully justify his one major decision. Once the shocking development is revealed it is brushed off as a comedic mess-up even though the ramifications are rather significant.
Coogan fairs a little better as we see him try to improve on his relationship with his son. Those moments are not as organically woven as they were previously. It should be mentioned that even though The Trip to Italy is being released in the US as a feature-length film it was originally released as a TV miniseries on BBC. Naturally through that adaptation process certain story elements are left unfulfilled.
The Trip to Italy is an opportunity to go an amazing road adventure with some new friends. These friends are just funnier than your normal ones. Just be warned, they also bring with them an assortment of emotional baggage.