In The Trip, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon share a jovial relationship as friends and colleagues, but beneath all the wit and banter is a deliciously immature impulse to constantly compete with each another. They can’t swap Michael Caine impressions without skirmishing over whose nasal inflection is more accurate. They battle to better critique food in the voice of Sean Connery’s James Bond. They even debate the lyrics and sing ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All,” serenading each other about the pain of a broken relationship as they drive through northern England.
The Trip is probably the funniest road trip movie ever made without lurking danger, mysterious strangers, gratuitous sex or violence. Actually, it’s a mission of almost no consequence as the two embark on a gastronomic tour of northern England and must enjoy/suffer one another’s companionship for a solid week. With many improvised scenes, the two are endlessly entertaining as they duel over movies, famous actors, prissy culinary flourishes, the poetry and opium smoking of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the glaciers and rock formations of the Yorkshire Dales, about which it’s only important to show slightly more interest and appreciation than the other guy.
(Longer Michael Caine video and the restaurants they toured after the jump.)
Director Michael Winterbottom reunited with the two comedians, who all worked together on Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005), a film in which Coogan and Brydon also play themselves — attempting to make a movie out of an absurdly unwieldy British novel. The Trip was created as a six part BBC TV series that ran in 2010. Here, it’s a tighter film with a very similar storyline. Coogan gets a gig to tour and review six renowned restaurants in northern England. He plans to make it a romantic getaway with his much younger girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley), but she cancels at the last minute. Brydon is the only friend willing to accompany Coogan on the jaunt, and at some subliminal level he bears the brunt of Coogan’s disappointment and anxiety about Mischa’s absence.
Coogan gamely plays himself as a celebrity narcissist, preoccupied with approaching middle age, trying to wring at least one great heroic role out of his career and constantly proving he is more serious and substantial than Brydon. Ever the unsuspecting victim of Coogan’s shadenfreude, Brydon cheerily fills silences with prattling impressions and silly voices. But whether it’s the roles of Woody Allen or Al Pacino or even Brydon’s original comedy bits, Coogan can’t resist the opportunity to do it better. And if he has to trample Brydon's feelings while he's at it, that's just all the more fun.
The Trip screens at Zeitgeist at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 29, through Thursday, Aug. 4.
Restaurants in The Trip
The Inn at Whitewell
Near Clitheroe, Lancashire
Windermere , Cumbria
Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria
The Yorke Arms
Near Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The Angel at Hetton
Hetton, Near Skipton, North Yorkshire