This weekend, we had the final bonus screening of the summer with the British comedy-drama, “The Trip To Italy”, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
When two men take on a magazine assignment to write about the restaurants of Italy, they leave their family behind – but once issues at home intervene, will they be able to complete their task?
Once Steve’s (Coogan) television show goes on hiatus, his buddy and fellow actor Rob (Brydon) contacts him about an opportunity: a travel magazine has made them an irresistible proposition – it will send the pair on an all-expenses paid trip barnstorming throughout Italy and in exchange, they have to write an article about the various restaurants they encounter during their travels. With plenty of free time on their hands, the offer is too good to refuse, so they head out to drive from city to city, stopping at the best eateries along the way.
Upon setting out on their journey, the two longtime friends begin some good-natured arguing about everything and anything, regardless the triviality. Whether the subject is music, movies or sex, they can debate just about anything and enjoy each other’s company in the process. During meals, they continue their conversations, often challenging each other to perform imitations of well-known movie stars. All the while, their banter challenges each to one-up the other with one-liners, insults and ripostes as they polish off one gourmet meal after another.
With their family at home anxiously awaiting their return, the trip suffers its occasional interruptions: Steve learns his son isn’t getting along well with his mother and Rob succumbs to temptations to cheat on his wife with a woman he meets on a tour. After a while, guilt sets in on both men: for Steve, he feels as though he’s been so busy that he’s been totally ignoring his son. With Rob, he longs to be with his family despite feeling a strong attraction to this new woman who finds him so uncontrollably appealing. Given all of these distractions, will the two be able to finish their job?
How could a movie containing beautiful scenery, shots of scrumptious food and two funny actors with obvious on-screen chemistry go wrong? Well, let’s start with the plot. Having one would have been nice. Instead, “The Trip To Italy” merely meanders about; unlike its lead characters, the film seems to be headed in no particular direction and largely suffers from this. It would seem that this venture is simply a vehicle for its stars to show off their comedic abilities, which it does. Sometimes. Therein lies another problem.
While some of their exchanges are genuinely funny, a number fall flat. This includes a few of the pair’s impressions – there are some that don’t really sound like the movie star they’re supposed to be imitating, yet they seem to pretend as though they do. Occasionally, the scene will fail because despite a serviceable impression, they clearly don’t have any reliable material from which they can work. This brings us to another point: the script. Or was there one? An excellent question. A screenplay credit is given.
“The Trip To Italy” is a sequel to “The Trip”, which starred the same two actors, apparently with a similar premise. In that one, I’m given to understand that much of it was improvised between the performers. So was there a script in “The Trip To Italy”? And if so, to what degree was it followed? I have no idea, but the look and feel of the movie suggests that to a large degree, it was in fact improvised. Will this film be a success? In America, I think that it will be something of an uphill battle, largely due to the fact that Brydon is unknown in this country while Coogan has achieved a degree of fame, especially after last year’s successful “Philomena”.