Title: The Trip
Directed By: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson, Dolya Gavanski, Kerry Shale
Have you ever sat down for a movie with one of those massive tubs of popcorn? You toss the first piece back and the buttery morsel is heavenly, but then, when you get about half way down, maybe even less, you’re incredibly parched, sick of the taste and have no desire to go any further. Well, that’s kind of the way The Trip makes you feel. There certainly can be too much of a good thing.
When his girlfriend opts out and he can’t manage to find another travel buddy, actor Steve Coogan has no choice but to turn to his last resort, old pal Rob Brydon. The duo pack up and drive through the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales sampling the best of the best from six of the finest local restaurants for The Observerto. When they’re not stuffing their faces, Coogan and Brydon are busy cracking jokes, impersonating celebrities and testing how long they can tolerate each other.
The story here is particularly loose. The Trip doesn’t seem to be about the trip itself, rather the mindless banter between the leading duo. Perhaps this could have worked if the majority of the material was funny, but for those who don’t appreciate Coogan and Brydon’s humor, The Trip doesn’t have much at all to offer.
And that’s not to say The Trip is entirely unfunny. At first, you’ll get a great kick out of their impression battles, however, the shtick is incredibly overdone. As great as Michael Caine is on the big screen, you don’t want to hear Coogan and Brydon mimic him at just about every meal. Plus, in general, the humor here is extremely stylized; you either like it or you don’t. Rather than hitting punch lines, the jokes come in the heat of their conversations and the two are bantering back and forth so quickly, you barely even realize when they pass you by.
As this type of humor clearly is not my thing, that left me with the film’s plot alone and while it is particularly convincing, it’s not all that interesting. When it comes to playing loose versions of themselves, Coogan and Brydon are spot on, which works beautifully with director Michael Winterbottom’s light touch. There’s no showy camerawork here; this is an actor’s film and in terms of creating two very real people in an authentic environment, Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom win big.
On the other hand, that winds up not mattering much as the adventure they’re on is not all that interesting. The whole situation grows out of this arrangement Coogan makes with The Observerto to review these restaurants and while they do go to these places and eat, the task of actually having to review the food feels like a non-issue. Not once does Coogan ever put pen to paper and take notes or even write a review for that matter. As for Brydon, it’s never quite clear what his purpose is there. In terms of Coogan’s characteristics, it seems he’d be more likely to go solo than to fill the empty reservation with someone he can’t stand.
The more charming portions of the film are the ones that hint at who these two guys really are. When they’re not constantly trying to one up each other with jokes, they’re real guys with feelings that can be rather endearing, specifically Coogan. It’s quite sad seeing him have a conversation with his girlfriend as it’s so clear he’s stuck in one of those situations where one cares more than the other. It’s breaking his heart and Coogan manages to show this rather than say it and that makes it all the more powerful.
While Brydon is the more likable of the two as Coogan can be quite self-centered, he’s also far less interesting. Whereas Coogan’s got some layers, Brydon’s a bit one note from beginning to end. He gets into the car one way and returns home the same man, albeit with a belly full of scallops.
The Trip isn’t a bad movie by any means, it just requires an extremely acquired taste to get from beginning to end without feeling compelled to check your watch and the bloated 111-minute runtime certainly doesn’t help. Coogan and Brydon reaching meal two is just like a hungry moviegoer making it to the halfway point in the popcorn bucket; no good will come of going any further and now you’re stuck staring and what’s simmering inside your stomach for the rest of the film. If only you’d gotten the small.
By Perri Nemiroff