Four years ago a restaurant tour by two British comedians resulted in one of the most charming films of 2010. “The Trip” was an improvised journey not just through Northern England’s culinary scene but through the psyches of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they comment on life, usually while doing spot-on Michael Caine impressions.
The Michael “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Caine impressions are back in full force in “The Trip to Italy,” as are the laughs and the self-aware conversations.
This time around Coogan and Brydon rent a Mini Cooper and retrace the steps of the Byron and the other Romantic poets’ grand tour of Italy set to the music of Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill.” They eat, banter and take in the view from Liguria to Capri. Between a hysterical re-imagining of the dialogue from “The Dark Knight Rises”—“I can Hardy understand what Tom’s saying.”—and a one-sided conversation with a preserved corpse in Pompeii, is a study on everything from fatherhood to fame to faithfulness.
Director Michael Winterbottom luxuriates in the chemistry between the two men. They are naturals, an intellectual version of The Two Ronnies, who riff on everything from pop culture hot buttons like Batman and pop music to the carnal exploits of Lord Byron. Their interplay is the key to keeping the rambling narrative on track and it is enough. They are the film’s glue and the sheer joy of watching them spar prevents the film from dipping into self-indulgence. That, and the gorgeous scenery.
“The Trip to Italy” is a riotous comedy that finds time for self-reflection, Roger Moore impressions and the timeless Alanis Morissette vs Avril Lavigne debate and it is intimate and infectious.