THE TRIP TO ITALY
(Dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2014)
This sequel to the 2010 art house comedy sleeper, THE TRIP, which re-unites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as fictionalized versions of themselves is definitely a case of more of the same.
It’s more fine dining – this time in exquisite Italian restaurants with spectacular ocean-views. It’s more neurotic bickering about stardom, or lack of stardom.
It’s more driving down winding roads through the scenic countryside – this time to the accompaniment of an Alanis Morissette CD.
But most importantly it’s more Michael Caine impressions, with a healthy side of Al Pacino as Brydon affects the famous actor’s gruff persona for an audition for an American mafia movie.
Just like in the first one, Coogan and Brydon are on a restaurant tour which they will write about for The Observer. Also like its predecessor, the film is edited together from 6 episodes of a BBC program, which accounts for its overlong length.
Though we see a lot of food – there are many cuts to inside the kitchens of each of the six restaurants they visit from Tuscany and Rome to the Amalfi coast while the duo converse at their tables – the meals aren’t really discussed except to say how heavenly they taste. Again, the meat of the matter is who can do the better impersonation.
At one point, Coogan and Brydon even act out an entire sketch involving the stars of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Caine (of course) arguing on set. This bit is hilarious but the mimicry does get tiresome, especially when they trod on material they well covered the first time around – i.e. the same Sean Connery lines.
The bare bones of the plot involve Brydon getting a part in the aforementioned film, a fictitious Michael Mann project, and having an affair with a British tour guide (Rosie Fellner). Coogan’s only dilemma appears to be that his most recent series, an American TV drama named Pathology (also fictitious) has been canceled.
Otherwise we just basically hang with these guys through their travels as they follow in the footsteps of the great Romantic poets Byron and Shelley, consume copious amounts of food and wine, and make references to many movies including ROMAN HOLIDAY, LA DOLCE VITA, NOTTING HILL (always an excuse for Brydon to do his spot on Hugh Grant impression), and CONTEMPT.
It’s an unruly formless experience that wears out its welcome halfway through. Only hardcore fans of the original or of these guys will find it funny or at least entertaining from start to finish. There's also the case that the more they do some of these impressions - particularly Brydon's Pacino - the less effective they are.
It does help that it looks great. Cinematographer James Clarke, who shot the first one, captures immaculate imagery of Italy in scene after scene. So I'll file THE TRIP TO ITALY with MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT under “Slight films of 2014 that have gorgeous scenery.”
While in THE TRIP, Coogan remarked that “behind every little pithy vaguely amusing joke is a cry for help,” here the cries seem to be more for attention. With their aching through their posh lifestyles and showbiz entitlements, the only help these guys will really need will be at the box office if they try to pull off a third one of these.