Movie Review #934
|Released in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on August 15, 2014. Comedy/Drama. This film is not rated. Runs 108 minutes. A British production. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Writer: Michael Winterbottom. Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon.|
SO VERY AMUSING.
By Alexander Diminiano
“The Trip to Italy” starts off with its two British stars, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, humbling the movie’s sequeldom. It’s lately become an overused joke in the movies, but Brydon and Coogan make it work nicely. They discuss how strange it is that four years after commissioning them to scavenge a score of restaurants across northern England, The Observer has now asked them to go on a second journey, except this time to Italy. (Though in their eyes, they’re following in the footsteps of great 19th century English poets, who would travel to Italy on a traditional Grand Tour.) They discuss how their second journey is kind of like a sequel, and how sequels tend to be worse than the original works. It’s true in many, many cases–just not here.
I laughed so hard at this followup to 2010’s “The Trip”. The sequel follows the same basic premise, which I’ve already described. It’s still a road movie, just a lot more metropolitan than last time. But the reason to really appreciate “The Trip to Italy” is that the two British actors don’t play food critics. They essentially play themselves, and oh yes they are actors. Brydon and Coogan can’t seem to have a discussion about movies or television (their prime topic of discussion) without branching off into imitations of various actors and characters. Quite frankly, these impersonations are hilarious. The winner here is Coogan’s Robert De Niro impression. Coogan pinpoints De Niro’s accent, stereotypical dialogue, and verbal tics so perfectly, it’s as if we’re hearing De Niro himself talk. Watching Coogan speak exactly like him is absolutely hysterical. (And for essentially the same reasons, I’d count Brydon’s Dustin Hoffman impression as a runner-up.)
“The Trip to Italy” is a real gut-buster–this being said from a critic who generally doesn’t care for British comedy. Though Brydon and Coogan’s antics aren’t entirely improvised this time around, they still deliver Michael Winterbottom’s script as if they’d just come up with it themselves. This is like watching a stand-up comic perform, except there’s two of them here. There’s a story, but it’s very shallow, because the point here is that we laugh, not that we care about the characters. It’s definitely not something to respect the film for unless you’re laughing.
As with the original, “The Trip to Italy” was not originally intended as a feature film, but as a six-episode sitcom series broadcast on BBC Two. As many as 57 minutes of the original British series were cut from the film version. I’d recommend the film, but I’m also very curious to see the comedy in its original form. I had a lot of fun with this movie, and if the original cut contains even more scenes where Brydon and Coogan sing along to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album, then I am sold.