From the very British BBC comes “The Trip,” a very British comedy starring the very British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Viewers who are not familiar with Coogan, Brydon, and British pop culture in general probably won’t find much to enjoy in this beautifully shot, mostly improvised trifle, and even viewers who meet the prerequisites might sigh at the self-indulgence that sometimes comes to light. But the giddy sequences of sublime, inspired silliness make it all worthwhile.
Fittingly, “The Trip” is more about the journey than the destination. Coogan (who has been seen Stateside in “Tropic Thunder” and the “Night at the Museum” movies) and Brydon (who is mostly unknown over here), old friends and collaborators in real life, play fictionalized versions of themselves taking a week-long driving tour of English restaurants. The specifics of their tour don’t matter much; the film’s main objective is to show two funny guys amusing themselves and each other.
This is accomplished with admirable success. Coogan, a restless bachelor trying to get ahead in the movie business, takes on the role of the curmudgeon, feigning annoyance at the lightheartedness of Brydon, a happily married family man. They try to make each other laugh with celebrity impersonations and stream-of-consciousness wordplay. A clip of them doing their dueling Michael Caine impressions has been circulating on the Internet since last fall, when an expanded version of “The Trip” played on British TV as a miniseries. That clip encapsulates what’s enjoyable about the film and represents what most of the footage is like, i.e., Coogan and Brydon riffing. If you are not entertained by the dueling Caines, then there is no reason for you to watch “The Trip.”
Personally, I find the dueling Caines endlessly hilarious, and I’m keen on spending a couple hours with a pair of sharp wits who delight in nonsense. To put it simply, the two make me laugh.
But the film, directed by Michael Winterbottom, adds a bit of melancholic characterization by contrasting Coogan’s and Brydon’s personal lives. Coogan is frequently on the phone with his agent and his quasi-ex-girlfriend, striving for success in business and in love, while Brydon seems content with his modest U.K. fame, his loving wife, and his angelic baby daughter. This stuff lacks the weight it would have needed to really matter, and comes across instead as an attempt to shoehorn some “meaning” into what is otherwise a splendidly meaningless excursion.
B (1 hr., 40 min.; )