THE TRIP TO ITALY
***1/2 (out of 5)
September 19, 2014
Steve Coogan as STEVE COOGAN
Rob Brydon as ROB BRYDON
Studio: IFC Films
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
BY KEVIN CARR
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With rare exceptions, I particularly like British comedy, from the outrageous (like Monty Python) to the low-key (like Karl Pilkington). This likely comes from the fact that my parents didn’t have cable while I was growing up, so the only option outside of the cookie-cutter programming on the main networks was PBS, which imported a lot of their content from the U.K.
In recent years, I’ve become quite a big fan of Steve Coogan, going back before “Hamlet 2” (during an interview for which I asked him if he had no shame, and he proudly answered, “No”) to seeing the incomprehensible “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.”
Recently, I have enjoyed watching him in “Alan Partridge: The Movie” (or “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” for those across the pond), and while I didn’t see him and Brydon in “The Trip” (though it is currently now in my Netflix queue), I remember their humor together for “A Cock and Bull Story,” which is also directed by Michael Winterbottom.
“The Trip to Italy” is a sequel to “The Trip,” though that is not required viewing to understand this film. Coogan and Brydon play exaggerated versions of themselves on a trip through the Italian countryside, eating at six different restaurants to review for The Observer. Along the way, they bicker and squabble, riffing through bizarre dinner conversation while each one deals with elements of their lives rupturing along the way.
With a set-up like this, you’d expect “The Trip to Italy” would be a foodie movie, with more food-porn shots than “The Hundred Foot Journey” and the peach pie sequence in “Labor Day” mixed together. And sure, there are the Instagram moments of delicious meals prepared for them. However, the food is really just the Maguffin to get the ball rolling for their haphazard conversations.
There’s also a certain travelogue aspect of the film, featuring the lush Italian countryside during their travels. Similar to the non-food-porn approach, these scenery of the film is not lingered upon as much as films like “Letters to Juliet” or “Under the Tuscan Sun” or even pretty much any of the recent Woody Allen films. However, the filmmakers take plenty of opportunity to show Italy in a beautiful light.
The real meat of the movie is the interaction between Coogan and Brydon. The best moments come when they feel the least scripted, including jokes tossed at each other while driving as well as odd tangents they discover during dinner, often resulting in sometimes overdone but often funny impressions of various celebrities. In particular, there is a moment where Coogan seems to break character a bit and roll into genuine laughter, which is quite a bit of fun to watch.
In the end, “The Trip to Italy” is an expanded traveling road show of goofy “My Dinner with Andre” moments without the pretension of hardcore art-house approach. If you at all find Steve Coogan entertaining, or Rob Brydon for that matter who is lesser known in the states, this film is definitely worth a look.