At one point during Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip To Italy, Rob Brydon looks at Steve Coogan, his traveling and eating companion, and says: “If there is one thing I’ve learned from this week, it is that I can live quite simply. I don’t need very much, this is enough for me.”
The joke, of course is, that despite the fact that they’re merely sitting on a terrace with nothing to entertain them but the food they’re consuming, their imminent surroundings and their own company, they are FAR FROM living simply. The eggs they’re eating are some of the best eggs in Italy (the world?), the terrace is at a hotel where Humphrey Bogart and John Huston used to stay, overlooking some of the most breathtaking views in Italy (the world?) and while the company they’re keeping each other is simply another extension of a fifteen year old friendship, the company is, in fact, Rob Brydon AND Steve Coogan. They are two very funny, very smart, very entertaining human beings that a lot of people WISH they could even share one meal’s conversation with, let alone a week’s worth.
The same goes for the movie itself: while the components to the equation are seemingly basic (two men, a week long road trip up through Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi, and Capri, meals in each destination and a goal to write SOMETHING about the experience), the sum of all parts is much greater than what those components imply. Even if (and especially since) they’ve already done it all once before.
Which brings me to my next point: This, I guess, is the part where I ask you if you’ve seen the original The Trip?
If you have – you can stop reading now and rest assured that if you enjoyed it – you will enjoy this one. It is BASICALLY the same (a few extra years and some decidedly sunnier landscapes added in), with Brydon and Coogan revisiting all their best bits (some even verbatim, it seems), and being very relaxed and game in their thorniness. And, worry not, they STILL don’t know anything about food.
If you haven’t – and you are maybe worried about not enjoying this film without seeing it, don’t worry – the plotline doesn’t involve virtually any backstory you need to know (my movie viewing companion came into it without seeing the first one and she enjoyed this edition just as I did). You should watch the original; it is available on instant Netflix right now. Still, for those that have not seen the first one, it may be useful to know WHY this is going to work (when, in theory, it could also be wildly annoying).
Coogan and Brydon have an easy bickering chemistry that feels palpably real. The movie, since it is not really about food (it is there as a backdrop, much like the beaches and streets of Italy) is ACTUALLY about male friendship. Which, unlike female friendship, is less about all out emoting and hand holding and sisterhoodness and more about the unspoken closeness that is, well, just there. Coogan and Brydon capture that comfort level perfectly, allowing their knowledge of each other to pop up deliberately here and there, in between their signature impersonation and mimicry face-offs and sips of very fine wines.
It is those moments that elevate the film beyond just a great ole’ dinner party conversation entertainment. These include but are by no means limited to: Their observations of their waning sexual attractiveness (Coogan has one of the best lines in the film when he responds to Brydon’s jab: “So, you’re telling me that she just slept with you because you’re famous?” to which he counters: “Yes, but shouldn’t we all just play with all that is at our disposal? Yes, she slept with me because I am famous, did she just sleep with you because you’re young and handsome?”), or the prolonged joke of when they realize that there is only one CD in their car and that the iPod dock is broken (I won’t spoil it for you what CD it is, but the two of them giving in to the music on said CD is a mini masterclass study on the state of modern masculinity), or all their Sicilian fantasy sequences (The Godfather cast is an impersonation favorite).
Then there is the final result (with a strong hat tip to the editing team here) is an hour and a half spent with two very real men, with very real issues, who just happen to be famous enough (but not too famous, as neither of them will ever be allowed to forget since the other one WILL keep reminding him) that someone would send them on a very fancy paid vacation to Italy just so they could chat to each other on camera. There is often very little point in sequels, and the sheer “just becauseness” of this one all of a sudden seems like as good of a reason as we’re bound to have in movie theatres this year. On that note: I, for one, would watch them going on a trip every so often for years to come. Maybe South America next, huh, guys?