The Trip

Steve Coogan is hired by Sunday newspaper, The Observer, to review fine restaurants throughout the northern English countryside for a column in their monthly food magazine. When his girlfriend backs out at the last minute, he extends an invitation to everyone before reluctantly inviting former college Rob Brydon as a last resort. You see they already share a mild antagonism toward each other based on their competitive nature, but therein lies the humor. They delight in needling one another. What follows is sort of a less scripted version of My Dinner With Andre with changing environments.

Part buddy film, part road movie, The Trip is a British comedy that portrays enhanced variations of UK comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves. The feature is actually edited from a six episode BBC TV sitcom that aired in the UK in 2010. It’s a follow up to 2005’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which was also directed by Michael Winterbottom and starred the same two actors.

To truly appreciate the humor, it helps to understand the stars, because their personalities are, after all, the entire focus. Steve Coogan is known for his socially awkward and politically incorrect Alan Partridge character, a fictional radio and television presenter. In the US, he’s had modest but memorable roles in Tropic Thunder and Night at the Museum. The comedy Hamlet 2, his lone starring Hollywood role, was intended to be his breakthrough. It wasn’t. Welsh Rob Brydon played Keith Barret in the BBC mockumentary series, Marion and Geoff and its spin-off The Keith Barret Show. A virtual unknown in this country, outside of BBC America watchers, he is actually less famous than his counterpart. But that doesn’t make the wisecracking team any less funny. On the contrary, they exhibit a lot of chemistry together.

It’s the camaraderie between Steve and Rob, or lack thereof, that makes the picture so hilarious. Rob is the lighthearted family man contrast to Steve’s moody bachelor. He’s rather agitated over life. He has this antagonistic friendship with Rob who remains cheerfully good natured. The duo brilliantly play off of the other’s idiosyncrasies. It’s the way the men both quarrel and bond that drives The Trip. Their lively conversations demonstrate palpable charm. Their dueling Michael Caines is probably the biggest highlight, but there are many vignettes that spotlight their dead on impressions of Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Woody Allen, Sean Connery, et al. The discussions they have while dining at various restaurants is the essence of the plot, but it’s also a food movie. Actually, the delightfully fanciful samplings of haute cuisine are a secondary showpiece. Many of the fussy concoctions are presented as mini works of art.

Additionally the chronicle integrates a few contemplative issues that touch on Steve’s difficulties with personal relationships – his girlfriend, in particular, but obviously his association with Rob as well. These moments are never quite as engaging as the back and forth banter amongst the two men, but it does gives the film some dramatic weight. It all builds to a dramatically inert, but still poignant conclusion. There’s no ultimate revelation, just the kind of realistic progress that actual people make sometimes while trying to figure out their life. Of course none of this would even matter if we didn’t care about these individuals, however. And we do. The Trip is a 107 minute journey well spent.

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5 Responses to “The Trip”

  1. magnolia12883 Says:

    I say again: funniest film of 2011 and I laughed till my sides hurt from literally the beginning to end – don’t know if it was anticipatory or earned laughter but yeah – hilarious

    • The humor of the film was much more subtle for me, but I really appreciate your love for this film. It‘s nice to see jokes that don’t rely on scatological subjects or gross out humor. I enjoyed their banter and found it amusing as well.

  2. Another great review! 🙂 I haven’t seen much of Steve Coogan before (and even less of Rob Brydon) but I’m excited for The Trip to open here (if it ever does). I’ve heard it’s really funny and I love a good comedy.

  3. I thought this movie was funny, however, I was getting tired of the Michael Caine impressions. Also, I wanted to see more color in the food. Everything was grey.

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