Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s 2010 culinary odyssey around the UK was originally shown over six episodes on BBC TV. Edited for the cinema, it proved so popular that the highly regarded and often provocative filmmaker Michael Winterbottom wrote and directed The Trip to Italy (2014), again starring the same pair of wisecracking mimics playing themselves.
The second instalment was not quite as good as the prototype and this third recycling of the format is not as good as its predecessor – in fact, it’s extremely disappointing. The underpinning theme, brought to the fore in Italy, contrasts the lifestyles of the men, both ‘of a certain age’. Coogan, having made it in America, has two Oscar nominations for his writing and is in demand as an actor.
He is presented as a caustic, rather jaundiced philanderer, vain but anxious about his status. Brydon, more of a television and theatre performer and happily married with two little kids, has found contentment in his domesticity. Winterbottom’s m/o, repeated ad nauseam by this point, has his stars driving through spectacularly scenic countryside and arriving at historic stone towns where they indulge in fabulous meals (Coogan is now teetotal). While dining, the boys allow their conversations to be peopled by recognisable celebrities, whom they impersonate with hilarious accuracy. In one sequence, they both do David Bowie at various stages of his career and, along with the obligatory Sean Connery and Michael Caine, there are Ian McKellen, Roger Moore, Mick Jagger, Brando and others.
Unfortunately, we have seen it all before and this time around the jokes aren’t terribly funny, which makes the routines feel long and drawn out – in fact, Brydon and Coogan are tending to look a little bored with the whole setup. Brydon tells his mate that the flagstones of a cathedral are what he is planning for his kitchen, but there is otherwise a lack of naturalness, while connections made between the Moors of Medieval Spain and ISIS lead to a conclusion that is just a silly contrivance.