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The Trip to Italy Movie Review

The Trip to Italy (2014) movie poster The Trip to Italy

US Theatrical Release: August 15, 2014 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Steve Coogan (Steve), Rob Brydon (Rob), Rosie Fellner (Lucy), Claire Keelan (Emma), Marta Barrio (Yolanda), Timothy Leach (Joe Coogan), Ronni Anconia (Donna), Rebecca Johnson (Sally Brydon), Alba Foncuberta (La Suvera Receptionist), Flora Villani (Villa Cimbrone Receptionist)


It's not typical for a movie that grosses $2 million at the box office to get a sequel, but then The Trip was not a typical movie. The 2011 comedy was edited from a six-episode BBC television series into a feature film. It saw British funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play mildly fictionalized versions of themselves eating at an assortment of fancy restaurants in northern England.
A second series, also consisting of six episodes, premiered on BBC Two this past spring and by then, the feature film version titled The Trip to Italy had already played at Sundance. Having opened in UK theaters the day the fourth episode aired, The Trip to Italy is now being rolled out in a limited number of North America theaters by IFC Films.

As the title indicates, the location has changed, but little else besides that. Once again, we're treated to a little under two hours of Coogan and Brydon dining well and engaging in impression duels. Being in Italy, the two eat more pasta and seafood dishes that look more appetizing than the foamy scallops they seemed to repeatedly enjoy in the first film. They also take in the sights of the peninsula nation and stay in luxurious, historic hotels. Ostensibly, Coogan and Brydon are there as a kind of pilgrimage in honor of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. But even if you're entirely unfamiliar with the poems of those worldly 18th-19th century Romantics, you'll still find much entertainment here in the form of the accessible pop culture icons that our two travelers take turns impersonating.

Steve Coogan looks on as Rob Brydon writes in a notebook in "The Trip to Italy."

One of the highlights of the first film, the actors' competing Michael Caine impressions emerge early and give way to a very funny recreation of The Dark Knight Rises, in which an assistant director (Coogan) tries to express concerns over the intelligibility of Tom Hardy and Christian Bale (both Brydon). Another highlight is when Brydon trots out his memorable Small Man in a Box voice to speak for a Pompeii victim immortalized in a glass-encased sculpture.

Other actors humorously given the impression treatment include Al Pacino (a go-to Brydon voice), Hugh Grant (Brydon), Marlon Brando (both), Dustin Hoffman (Brydon), Robert De Niro (both), Woody Allen (Brydon), and the various James Bonds (both).

Coogan and Brydon have effortless chemistry together, which keeps us in good spirits even as they're reflecting glumly on aging and their mortality. Once again, the men take time to memorialize one another with some comic barbs and rumination. Coogan is game for discussions of his career, work, and personal struggles (there's no mention of Philomena, which may stand as his long-overdue introduction for many moviegoers outside the UK). He also connects, via Skype and in person, with his teenaged son Joe (Timothy Leach), a product of divorce he longs to see more of. Brydon gets to do more of the adventuring this time around, cheating on his wife with an attractive young boat tour guide and then auditioning via video for the role of a mob accountant in a Michael Mann film (sadly, this too numbers among the fictional touches).

The abrupt ending, less melancholy than its predecessor's, points to this being conceived first and foremost as a short, improvised television series. But The Trip to Italy entertains thoroughly in feature film form. As the project amounts to a paid, productive, and evidently fulfilling vacation, I see no reason why Brydon, Coogan, and their director Michael Winterbottom could not reunite for another such travelogue and take in the cuisine and culture of another photogenic part of the world. The amount of mileage this film gets out of having Coogan and Brydon listen and comment upon Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (not even the most famous singles) as they drive around demonstrates that these two guys could be entertaining doing anything at all.

Related Reviews:
Steve Coogan: Philomena Tropic Thunder Night at the Museum What Maisie Knew Ruby Sparks Our Idiot Brother Around the World in 80 Days
2014 Indies: Boyhood The Grand Budapest Hotel Fading Gigolo The Lunchbox | Sequels: Muppets Most Wanted
Italy: Eat Pray Love The Great Beauty To Rome with Love When in Rome The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou And While We Were Here

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Reviewed August 29, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 IFC Films, Revolution Films, Baby Cow Films, Small Man, BBC.
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