Published on May 24th, 2014 | by Damien Straker
The Trip to Italy – Film Review
Reviewed by Damien Straker on May 19th, 2014
Madman presents a film by Michael Winterbottom
Producers: Andrew Eaton and Melissa Parmenter
Written by Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan
Cinematography: James Clarke
Editing: Mags Arnold, Robbie Gibbon, Paul Monaghan and Marc Richardson
Running Time: 103 minutes
Release Date: May 29th, 2014
The best word to describe Michael Winterbottom’s sequel to The Trip is patchy. There are some enjoyable laughs and jokes by the film’s dual leads Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, playing fictional versions of themselves again, but the comedy doesn’t strike as frequently. Both films were originally a television series edited down into the film format. In the prequel the duo was assigned to travel around Britain to review several restaurants. They spent more time outdoing each other with their duel impersonations of celebrities like Michael Caine than paying attention to the food. They were rude, egotistical and self-absorbed and that’s why it was so hysterical. Now they’ve been asked to do a second round of restaurants in Italy. Like so many sequels, this entry doesn’t have the element of surprise but that was expected. The weakest aspect here is the thinness of the material. By attempting to deepen the dialogue and the characters it overstays its welcome. There isn’t enough narrative to stop the film from running out of steam and earlier than expected.
Who could argue with staying too long in Italy though? The new setting is one of the stars because this feature looks stunning. The beauty of Italy, including Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and Caprio, are sumptuously captured by cinematographer James Clarke. The overhead shots and wide angles are used very effectively in capturing images like the boats on the water or even the cities in the back of the frame as the camera moves away in an unbroken tracking shot. It is an incredible looking film but one must ask what Winterbottom’s incentive was in making another entry. He is one of the most diverse filmmakers in the world and he doesn’t make the same film twice. This isn’t a radical departure from the structure of the previous entry and some of the thematic material is recycled from other films like The Look of Love, which also starred Steve Coogan as a neglectful father.
At least both of the actors are very articulate with their improvisation. There is more discourse about the topics like age and death. They also frequently refer to poets like Lord Byron and pop staples like Roman Holiday. The thematic and ironic aim is that as they are so busy discussing death they are unaware of how much time they are wasting. The film’s comedic flaw is in it attempts to soften Coogan’s character. In the first film he was jealous, needy and unfaithful. Now the men have reversed roles. As he is growing older he wants to spend more time with his son, which adds a dose of sentimentality. Steve is also more reactionary to Brydon, who dominates most of the jokes and becomes the shallower of the two men as he cheats on his wife. It leaves the comedy feeling imbalanced and lopsided. Was anyone planning on seeing this really hoping for Steve Coogan to become a nicer guy?
Coogan is a brilliant comedian and has made an art form out of playing egotistical jerks, like his signature character Alan Partridge. I wonder if the change in his character here though is reflecting the maturity of his other work and attempts to add more dimensions to his repertoire. On top of his excellent performance in The Look of Love as Charles Raymond, he was also well received as both the writer and actor in Philomena. If he is growing out of films like this it will dampen anyone’s hopes for a third entry. That isn’t a bad thing. As it’s said in a promising early scene, a second album is never as good as the first one. While Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are fun and draw some solid laughs from the limitations of the premise, this particular trip is still baggy and self-indulgent.
Summary: While Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are fun and draw some solid laughs from the limitations of the premise, this particular trip is still baggy and self-indulgent.