Review: The Trip to Spain

This third exploration of the semi-fictional competition-friendship between the two British comedic actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, tries to get by on the pure momentum generated by the last installment, The Trip to Italy, which was and will probably remain the high point in the series about two insufferable entertainers tooling around the countryside on some publication’s dime sampling amazing food, accommodations, and scenery while bemoaning their respective personal and professional setbacks. Though Coogan and Brydon got much more mileage out of their considerable celebrity impersonation skills in Italy than they did in the original The Trip, where they simply traveled the English countryside and which was edited down from a TV mini-series, here the surrounding plot is so weak and gratuitous that you almost get the feeling the whole movie was built around these seemingly spontaneous attempts at one-upmanship in the mimicry arts, which peaks during a sequence in which Coogan, attempting to explain to two female acquaintances the importance of moor culture in Spain, is confounded by Brydon’s incessant impersonation of Roger Moore. The scene outdoes Ricky Gervais (also referenced at least twice in the movie, which is nothing if not incestuous about British comedy) in terms of wince-inducing faux hilarity, and you really just want it to stop as soon as possible.

The main problem with the plot-like scaffolding is that Coogan this time is the conceited jerk, having just come off an Oscar nomination for a screenplay that has filled his head with dreams of being a great writer. When he and Brydon are offered yet another chance to pig out on the road, this time in Spain, a destination Coogan once sampled when he was a young man, he gets the idea of writing a book comparing this outing to the one where he, naturally, lost his virginity to a woman almost twice his age. Unfortunately, the script, credited to the two actors and director Michael Winterbottom, saddles him now with an affair with a married woman about half his age. Brydon, who was the forlorn one in the last movie, is now back with his wife who in the meantime has produced two children just as he’s turning 50. Though Brydon certainly acts the harried middle aged new father, the viewer is constantly being clued in as to which of the two fussbudgets are on a more realistic and fulfilling life path. This aspect of the series has always been its focal point, since the two men’s insecurities as manifested in their rivalry over their peculiar talents have been the only source of conflict in movies that are otherwise nothing more than aspirational travelogues studded with standup, but the conflict was prickly enough to be engaging. Here, it’s just plain predictable, and while Coogan doesn’t really deserve the bitter fate that befalls him, in the end you probably won’t care any way. As always, the food looks great, but my covetousness did not run over this time. Their company didn’t quite sit well with me, and the fact that Brexit didn’t even enter into their conversations made me quite suspicious. It’s one thing to not be serious, quite another to deny reality altogether.

Now playing in Tokyo at Bunkamura Le Cinema Shibuya (03-3477-9264).

The Trip to Spain home page in Japanese.

photo (c) Sky UK Limited 2017

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