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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Trip to Italy


I saw 2010's The Trip on a whim, with no expectations, several years ago. It's a movie that has enough quote-worthy moments that I still reference it years later, but if you asked me to explain the plot, I couldn't tell you more than "Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon eat at English restaurants, do impressions and act random." That's the beauty of the movie, really; there's very little plot threading together a series of hilarious and organic moments between two comedians, the most famous of which you can see here.

This year's follow-up film, The Trip to Italy, was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I'm not sure if it's because I expected so much this time, where I'd previously expected so little, but I can certainly say this is not a movie you should long for for the better part of a year unless you're prepared to be disappointed.

The Trip to Italy picks up presumably a few years after the first film, with Coogan and Byrdon once again playing loose versions of themselves. They've been asked to do another series of restaurant reviews, this time in Italy. Were this film like its predecessor, the bulk of the plot would stop there. Unfortunately the sequel attempts a slightly meatier plot, and instead of anchoring the film with Coogan - who is much closer to the proverbial "straight man" of the two - the plot is anchored with Brydon, an actor I much prefer in smaller doses.

Brydon's impressions were hilarious in The Trip, and while I'm a sucker for his man in the box every time, I felt his impressions grating on me about halfway through this film. There were still funny moments - some of which I'd unfortunately already seen in the previews - but I walked out of the film feeling like I'd missed any quintessential "Gentlemen, To Bed" clips that I'd seen in the first. Overall it seems like The Trip to Italy was served to the audience stale. It failed to explore any new jokes or territory, and spent most of the time repeating jokes we'd already seen.

The major improvement of this film over its predecessor is in the food. It's not a stretch to say that Italian food is much easier to present in a mouth-watering way than traditional English food, and The Trip to Italy serves up dish after dish of carb-laden food porn. The suggestion was so powerful that I found myself at an Italian restaurant only 20 minutes after the film was over, filling my belly with homemade pasta at 10:30 p.m.

And in spite of my preference for the first film's looser plot and structure, the film made some interesting comparisons between Brydon and Coogan's career. We see Brydon going through the fits and starts of his blossoming American career, as well as the impact his lifestyle is beginning to have on his relationship with his wife and daughter, while Coogan is shrugging off and leaving behind the L.A. lifestyle (though not entirely voluntarily) in an attempt to be closer to home.

Coogan and Brydon make some comments about how unnecessary and unsuccessful most sequel films are, and while this isn't a bad movie, it definitely falls short of its predecessor. If you've not seen either, I would skip The Trip to Italy and watch The Trip streaming on Netflix instead.

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