The Trip to Italy

10 June 2014 Film

The Trip to Italy


As a quasi-sequel to director Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Tristram Shandy (2005) – in which UK actors and comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played versions of themselves – The Trip (2010) was a bit of an oddity. Released both as a six-part television series  (in the UK, then here) and an edited-down feature film (everywhere else), it followed the duo (again as slightly altered versions of themselves) around the UK’s Lakes District. They visited local restaurants, discussed the lives of poets Coleridge and Wordsworth and did a lot of celebrity impersonations. As a mix of character study and foodie travelogue, it was fun but light on; as a comedy, the two men’s riffing provided some of the funniest moments of that year.

The Trip to Italy reunites the duo for a trip around The Boot, following in the footsteps of Byron and Shelley. But life has moved on: for one, Coogan’s Hollywood career has flamed out. Now older and wiser, he’s looking to reconnect with his family, specifically his teenage son.

Meanwhile Brydon, whose solid family life was placed in stark contrast to Coogan’s womanising in the original, is moving up in the world. Having become a household name in the UK and with Hollywood calling, he sees this overseas jaunt as a chance to cut loose. And not just with the comedic impressions.

At times this is so slight it’s barely a film at all: large stretches are just the two men at various restaurant tables putting on silly voices. But they’re hilarious voices, and the pair are able to build on each other’s jokes to provide fully formed sketches. An early sequence built around the various characters of The Dark Knight Rises is as funny a scene as you’ll see in 2014.

The food and sightseeing is fun, but the relationship is the core here. Winterbottom builds on the changes in his cast’s real-life status (Coogan really has moved his career focus back to the UK; Brydon really has become a household name) to shift the power balance between the duo, while maintaining Coogan’s frustration with Brydon’s puppy-like enthusiasm. It’s an interesting twist, though it means the ending comes off as oddly low-key and inconclusive.

Still, with its gravesite visits and meditations on fading sexual allure, this is as much about mortality as it is about Michael Caine and Roger Moore impressions. But boy, are those impressions amusing.

» The Trip to Italy is in cinemas now.