In 2010, the BBC aired a six-episode series called “The Trip,” an improvised travelogue buddy comedy starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as exaggerated versions of themselves making their way across northern England, reviewing restaurants.
The series was then edited down and released internationally as a theatrical feature. Four years later, the duo gets back together again, this time with “The Trip To Italy”—both as a continuation of the series and, more importantly in the case of this review, as another film.
As can be guessed, Steve and Rob are off to Italy, having been asked to do another restaurant review tour. Most of their journey consists of eating food, joking around, quoting poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron and listening to Alanis Morrisette (a point which does not succeed in escaping their mockery). But there is a very present underlying tension for each character, even more so than in “The Trip.”
In one scene, the pair speaks offhandedly of melancholy becoming commonplace as they age, and this persists as a prevalent theme throughout the film. As they try to hide their own melancholy with witty banter and various impressions (Steve even accuses Rob of being unable to recite poetry in his own voice), we see behind closed doors just how uncomfortable they are with the stages they’ve reached in life. Steve wishes to spend more time with his son, and Rob struggles with a desire to pursue an affair while his wife and child are home in England.
Michael Winterbottom has continued in his directorial role for this film and has even been given a writing credit (“The Trip” had none). Though the film stays true to its predecessor with its improvised content and free form structure, the fact that there even was a writing credit attached to this film is obvious. While the overall plot of “The Trip” was choppy and dim (one could surmise that it should have just stayed as a series and nothing more), “To Italy” does well as a feature, having made room for much more developed character arcs—and more laughs, to boot.
It is a well-rounded mix of serious and comedic moments. Brydon’s use of impressions may be a tad heavy this time around, but that is, after all, a quirk of his rambunctious, over-talkative character, and perhaps it is not so laborious when broken into episodes as a series. And Coogan’s character is his usual mirthless self, shooting back Brydon’s verve with just as much sardonic flare. The two balance each other out quite nicely, and, with the stunning views of Italy as their backdrop, a pointed conversation about “Roman Holiday” is the perfect way to tie up the film.
For those who like a good comedy, especially one that includes impersonations, definitely check out “The Trip To Italy.” You’ll enjoy the ride.
Sammi Leigh Melville is a staff member and film reviewer at Midtown Cinema.
Midtown Cinema September Events
Down in Front!
9/12, about 9:30 p.m.
The Down in Front! trio comedically rips apart “Scared to Death,” the terrible 1947 B-movie in which a dead lady in the morgue tells the tale of how she got there. BYOB… you’ll need it.
2nd Saturday Morning Cartoons
9/13, 9:30-11:30 a.m. and every second Saturday of the month
2nd Sunday Foreign and Classic Film Series
9/14, 6 p.m. and every second Sunday of the month
“His Girl Friday,” Howard Hawks’ 1940 comedy
3rd in the Burg $3 Movie
9/19, about 9:30 p.m.
“Grease” sing-a-long! Dress up as a T-bird or a Pink Lady and sing along to the 1978 musical comedy. Group vocal warm up included. BYOB.
National Theatre Live
9/28, 4 p.m. and 9/30, 7 p.m.
The National Theatre presents a recording of the acclaimed stage production, “Medea.”
9/28, 7 p.m. and every fourth Sunday of the month
“The Boston Hardcore Film,” a 2012 documentary exploring the early Boston hardcore music scene from 1981 through 1984 (all ages).