This is really neither movie nor documentary. It’s just two guys, two friends, obviously, who happen to be a little bit famous, taking a road trip, eating some food, and cracking some jokes.
The first one, The Trip, features the pair (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) driving all over England and chatting about their excellent dinners while trying to one-up each other with impersonations (the Michael Caine is a personal favourite). In The Trip to Italy, the same is attempted, but this time the food is completely forgotten. Some of the film takes places incidentally in restaurants, and there are a couple of obligatory kitchen shots, but not a single dish is named, and none are commented upon other than perhaps a raised eyebrow if something is particularly good. So if you’re looking for recommendations, look elsewhere.
I love Steve Coogan. I could listen to him carry on literally all day long. I don’t know his parter in crime as well; I think Brydon is primarily known on the other side of the pond. However, it is important to note that they are playing “lightly fictionalized” versions of themselves. I don’t know why, and I don’t care for the device. If you don’t want to incorporate your genuine personal lives, then don’t. Brydon’s Hugh Grant impression is much better than his I’m-having-an-affair impresion. Coogan pretends to bring along his fake son (same fake son for the first one, so at least the continuity’s there) but I’m not sure to what end. These two are comedic talents of the first-rate. They can sit and improvise and entertain each other (and us) like nobody’s business. They riff off each other enormously well, and it reminds me so much of great dinners with my own friends, the whole thing just dissolving into something absurd. Coogan pretends to be an egoist with a superiority complex, and Brydon this time is less the stool and more ambitious for his own self.
There are some prepared bits as well (though there’s no credit for a script) – Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album Jagged Little Pill is apparently the only CD in their Mini convertible, and when they’re not singing along in earnest, they’re coming up with new, improved lyrics for her most famous songs.
I don’t think it’s likely to be just anyone’s cuppa, but I like these films. The Trip to Italy doesn’t quite manage to recapture the magic (but don’t worry, there’s more MIchael Caine) and I did miss actual commentary on the food – because wasn’t that the “fictionalized” point? At any rate, they make with the funny, and they make funny well. And maybe that’s point enough.