There are some films that take pride in having gripping plots, rich character depth, and stirring twists. Then there is Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip; a comedy that wants nothing more than to make the audience laugh as much as possible. What the film lacks in regards to plot and character, it makes up for in spades with its humour.
Playing heightened versions of themselves, The Trip follows Steve Coogan and longtime comedy partner Rob Brydon as they travel through the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, dinning at fancy restaurants and taking in some of the history of the land. Coogan has been commissioned by The Observer newspaper to write food reviews. The week long voyage was suppose to be a romantic outing for Coogan and his girlfriend but things have hit a bumpy patch in their relationship. As a last resort, Steve enlist Rob to come along on the journey. As the men hit the open road, they contemplate their lives while routinely trying to one up each other when it comes impersonating famous people.
The Trip is a six-part, mostly improvised, BBC television series that will be airing later this year. Director Michael Winterbottom edited together the footage into a feature film. As odd as it may sound the whole production will play probably better as a feature than as a mini-series. As a series, the repetitive nature of the humour would get rather stale if viewed over the course of a few days. Compressed into a brisk feature length running time, the gags seem far less tedious.
It is tough to find a comedic duo working today that has as much chemistry as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Whether they are describing the various foods they sample, or arguing who can do the best celebrity impersonations, their wit and timing is impeccable. The audience will not only leave the film with tears in their eyes from laughing so hard, but they will also find themselves debating who did what better just like the actors. For the record, I felt Brydon did the better Michael Caine impression and Coogan nailed the Sean Connery impression.
If there is one drawback to the film, it is that the poignant moments are too few and far between. The contrasting views each men hold in regards to success is rather interesting. Coogan is determined to make it in America as this is what he considers the benchmark for true success in the entertainment world. Brydon on the other hand is content with the level of fame he has amassed in the UK. Unlike Coogan, Brydon views life with his family to be far more rewarding than anything Hollywood has to offer. It is these moments that Winterbottom could have explored more. It would have added more depth to the characters and story. Still, one must remember that The Trip is a comedy first and foremost, and on a comedic level this film is top notch.