Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Trip to Italy (2014) ***1/2

Those who know and love the work of British actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan have probably seen this sequel to 2010's “The Trip” already. Everyone else has probably never heard of either film, and might not like them. These movies represent a different brand of humor, which some may find awkward or boring. For those of us, however, who cultishly devour the silliness of “Monty Python,” “The Office” (British version), and “Gavin and Stacey,” struggling to understand the actors through their various British accents, these movies are a delight.

In 2010's "The Trip," Brydon and Coogan traveled around the English countryside, sampling the foods of several high-end restaurants for a magazine article, playing exaggerated versions of themselves. In 2014 they reunited for a similar wine and food tour of Italy. Last time out, Coogan was working his way through a relationship with a model, while Brydon stood as the example of wedded bliss. This time around, it is Brydon who is finding things slightly rocky on the home front, while Coogan has actually achieved a certain level of peace with his broken family and with his general approach to life.

The food looks better this time around, as does the fabulous Italian countryside, with terraced hillsides, mountains, and the beautiful Mediterranean. Otherwise, “The Trip to Italy” is very similar to “The Trip.” Both films started out life as British mini-series, later stitched together into films. Once again, the actors split their attention between the trip, their careers, and their complicated personal lives, with plenty of time at meals and in the car to rib each other and do endless impersonations.

Enjoying these films requires a recalibration of one's stimulus meter. There are no car chases, no shootouts, and while these two actors are very funny, the jokes don't come at you like they do in a Chris Tucker movie. The movies are paced very much like real life, if real life were spent with two very witty, insecure British comedians. The action largely consists of conversations across tables and in the car between these two long-time friends/rivals. Sometimes the plot exists between the lines, in what doesn't have to be said between these two.

If, after reading all this, you still think you might enjoy “The Trip to Italy,” then you are in for a treat. It's a vicarious feast of food, wine, and friendship. I suggest you watch the original “The Trip” first, if possible. We are lucky to be able to travel with these guys, eating, drinking, and listening to their Michael Caine impressions.

3.5 stars out of 5

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