'The Trip to Italy' a tasty journey worth taking

Rating

3 Stars3/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:50 PM ET

The fictionalized and exaggerated versions of comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon whom we see in The Trip and now its sequel, The Trip to Italy, are hilarious travelling companions.

While stuffing their faces with great food and wine, they rattle on about stuff and nonsense — pontificating on romantic poets, riffing on Alanis Morissette tunes, ‘blowharding’ on sex and love, and trying to out-do each other with ridiculous impersonations of other celebrities from Michael Caine to Sean Connery to Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

But you would not want to be around the Coogan-Bryon duo on one of these journeys. They would be loud, rude and disruptive to have actually sitting at the next table in a gourmet restaurant or wine bar. Yet these bloody boors are amusing on the screen. The Trip to Italy is a fun diversion.

Both Trip movies originated on TV in a limited edition British sitcom. The first series was re-edited into the Trip and involved a restaurant tour of the north of England. The second series was re-edited into The Trip to Italy and again involves a restaurant tour as well as a lot of shenanigans.

The entire enterprise was under the control of veteran English director Michael Winterbottom, who obviously has a soft spot for Coogan and Brydon. He first put these two goofs together in the largely improvised comedy, A Cock and Bull Story (2005). The title says it all about that movie and the TV sitcom and the two spinoff movies.

Long form re-edited to short does raise issues. It is obvious on occasion that pieces of plot are missing from The Trip to Italy. Some conversations leap over gaps in the flow of information. But it does not much matter, given that most of the movie is a stream of consciousness — or unconsciousness in the case of juvenile rants.

Even though Coogan and Brydon are not actually playing out their own lives, they do use their own names and often make witty and/or self-deprecating remarks about themselves and their careers. They also love to insult each other.

But the six places they visit are specific and real, among them the Hotel Locarno in Rome and the Il Riccio restaurant in Capri. At all locations, Winterbottom repeatedly slices in brief shots of real chefs preparing the gourmet cuisine in the kitchens, while Coogan and Brydon are drinking and chatting at their tables. I guarantee that foodies will drool during these cutaways because the dishes look scrumptious and the preparation of the dishes is part of a fascinating ritual.

The strange thing about this food-and-drink comedy, however, is the bittersweet ending. I have not yet seen the TV series so I do not know how Winterbottom dealt with the ennui that the fictional Coogan and Brydon characters feel. In the movie, the percussive, jazzy pace of the story suddenly ends with a sad refrain. Yet it makes me want to take another Trip with these guys — as long as they stay on screen.

The Trip to Italy opens in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal today before expanding across Canada, Aug. 22.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland


 


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