Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Trip to Italy

There’s a word in the English language that I relish. Often, when my husband and I are away somewhere hot, sitting at an upscale restaurant, one of these beauties will appear on the side of my plate as a garnish, and I never fail to pick it up, look at him and say, “kumquat” in as clipped a fashion as I possibly can.

So imagine my delight when, in their latest film, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon turn that word into the funniest back and forth gag since the “Gentlemen, to bed!” fake dialogue they improvised in their first film, The Trip.

Now, in The Trip to Italy, they’re back, riffing on everything from Alanis Morrisette to who was more unintelligible in the Batman films: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne (not Batman, but Wayne) or Tom Hardy as Bane?

As one account has pointed out, if these guys were sitting beside you at a table in a restaurant, you’d first poke their eyes out with a fork before doing yourself in. But onscreen (and edited) they are wildly funny, if still occasionally annoying. I know Rob Brydon is very popular in the UK, and the people I went to see it with are big Brydon fans, but I’m still a Coogan gal myself, and think his comedy is very understated and hilarious. Brydon is known for his impressions, and he so rarely uses his own voice that you wonder if he ever forgets who he actually is. And, oddly, whenever Coogan corrects him and does the impression himself, he almost always does it better. There were times when Brydon was doing either Sean Connery or Hugh Grant for the billionth time that the woman behind me in the theatre would groan, “Oh no...” and I couldn’t blame her. But then he would say something so off-the-wall hilarious that all is forgiven. And he does pull off an extended riff on his “man in a box” routine that is so funny I was doubled over throughout the scene.

As in The Trip, the two men are sent on a foodie holiday by a newspaper — in the first film it was to northern England, and in this one it’s Italy — and the images of the countryside are so gorgeous it’ll take your breath away, and the food will just make you hungry for the entire film. But the real meat of the movie is in the conversation between the two men. I can’t imagine how many hundreds of hours of improv director Michael Winterbottom had to edit to winnow it down to the 90 minutes of the film, but he must have had a hilariously fun time doing so.

Yes, they do try to shoehorn in a plot. In the first film, it was about Steve Coogan having a midlife crisis, trying to figure out where he is in the world, why he’s not more popular as an actor than he is, why no one recognizes him on the street, why women no longer look at him the way they once did, what happened to his marriage, and why his son won’t speak to him. Brydon, on the other hand, was happily married and had a newborn baby, and was recognized everywhere they went. In this outing it’s Brydon who’s unhappy: his wife is so caught up in their three-year-old daughter that she doesn’t have time for his phone calls, and his mind and eyes begin to stray to other women. The problem is, if you’ve ever been left at home alone caring for young children while your spouse travels, you know how exhausting and time-consuming it is, and that he’s living his life’s dream while his wife toils away at home with the youngster. So, unfortunately, he was utterly unsympathetic to me as he worked through his issues, and I thought the subplot was handled better in The Trip.

That said, I would recommend this to anyone who loved The Trip (and if you haven’t seen that movie, do), if for no other reason than to hear them riff on the word kumquat.


Joel said...

Nice review! If you enjoyed the films, I would also recommend watching the whole series. 6 episodes each, I think.

tuscany wine tour said...

Thanks for the review, I love it. I love it so much that the greedy gnome in me wants more...