NEW TO HULU! Michael Winterbottom obviously recognized the sheer comedic majesty of pairing up Steve Coogan with Rob Brydon while shooting his BBC television series The Trip (which was later released in the United States as a feature film), but who knows what could have possibly prompted him to make a sequel. Just like Coogan and Brydon’s characters in The Trip to Italy, Winterbottom seems to have agreed to shoot this film for the free trip to Italy and an easy paycheck. For food aficionados, The Trip was especially intriguing because it showcased the high brow cuisines of a country that is quite unfortunately known for its culinary blandness. Sending Coogan and Brydon to Italy, one of the culinary capitals of the world seems far too obvious.
Winterbottom takes a break from his trademark hyper-intelligent, self-reflexive, post-modern deconstructions of narratives, instead opting to allow Coogan and Brydon to just ramble on aimlessly for just shy of two hours. The Trip to Italy plays as if someone instructed Winterbottom to forget about the tricky narrative flourishes from The Trip in favor of regurgitating all of those funny little bits that made people laugh the most during the first film (in other words, impersonations of Michael Caine, Al Pacino and the various James Bonds). Coogan and Brydon’s antagonistically competitive and mean-spirited “friendship” is consciously softened. They seem kinder and mellower; Coogan, especially, seems less egotistically maniacal. Perhaps these two aging comedians are just growing kinder and gentler or did the marketing geniuses at BBC ceremoniously conclude that these semi-fictionalized characters needed to be nicer to each other?
“…showcased the high brow cuisines of a country that is quite unfortunately known for its culinary blandness.”
Glossing over the somewhat creepy tendency of these two aging men ogling much younger women, infidelity serves as a very minor theme in The Trip to Italy. Coogan is somewhat invested in discussing his relationship with his son, yet that subplot goes absolutely nowhere. So, basically, all there is to take away from The Trip to Italy is the beautiful scenery (including women) and the delectable cuisine. Really, the most entertaining part of the Sundance 2014 premiere of The Trip to Italy was listening to a pair of women seated behind me orgasmically making “ooh” and “ah” sounds at every shot of idyllic Italian countrysides and artfully prepared meals. At least those two ladies got something enjoyable out of this film.
There is no denying Coogan and Brydon’s comedic chemistry; their impersonations are humorous (especially their elongated bit about The Dark Knight Rises and Tom Hardy), but that alone cannot carry an entire narrative. There are very few instances that a comedic sequel is as good as the original, and The Trip to Italy falls prey to that very curse. Perhaps this is all part of Winterbottom’s charade, an attempt to illustrate the inherently repetitive and banal nature of comedic sequels? That, of course, assumes Winterbottom purposefully made a bad film in order to illustrate his point.
The Trip to Italy screened at the Sundance Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.
"…Coogan and Brydon to just ramble on aimlessly for just shy of two hours."