Published Jun 30, 2011Michael Winterbottom's The Trip has already spawned one YouTube phenomenon ― Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's testily comparing their Michael Caine impressions on the basis of who has better mastered the various nuances (the way it has deepened since the '60s or "the broken voice he does when he gets very emotional").
It's very funny, of course, to hear Brydon demonstrate how "all of the cigars and the brandies" have lowered Caine's voice, but within the context of the passive-aggressive feud at the heart of The Trip, it's even funnier to watch Coogan roll his eyes and mutter, "Okay!" and hear Brydon say, "I'm not fucking finished!," in Caine's voice, of course.
The Trip is a comedy about two comedians who refuse to admit the other one is funny, and the laughs come from the sneers and eye-rolls between the jokes. The story begins on a contrivance: Steve Coogan, the actor/comedian, has been assigned an article on England's finest restaurants and has invited Rob Brydon, the impressionist/raconteur, as his plus one. "I have asked other people, but they're all too busy," Coogan mumbles, in a line that sets the tone for their five-day journey of snipes, backhanded compliments and relentless one-upmanship.
Coogan and Brydon played themselves as bickering rivals in Winterbottom's Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (2005), and more or less reprise their personae here: Brydon is cheerful and tiresomely joke-y (his unending stream of impressions includes Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman); Coogan is vain, petty and more concerned with fame than his girlfriend (who he cheats on) and son. In one of the funniest scenes, Brydon needles Coogan on whether he would let his son get sick if he could win an Oscar. "Absolutely not. What kind of illness?"
The Trip has been condensed to 107 minutes from a six-episode BBC TV series and feels it. The structure is a little lumpy, the conversations are a little repetitive and by the time Brydon launches into his Al Pacino for the umpteenth time, you can understand why Coogan would want to strangle him. But The Trip has many big laughs, and with the knowledge that Coogan in real life has been a fixture of the London tabloids, and that his bids at American stardom (Hamlet 2, Around the World in 80 Days) have misfired, the comedy gains an uncommon edge. (Alliance)