Following the success of their first driving and eating tour film in The Trip, Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and director Michael Winterbottom all returned for an expected second trip of cars and food, with Italy being the backstop. Like The Trip, The Trip To Italy was also broadcast as a miniseries in England before being edited to a feature-length film for American audiences, and like in The Trip, the story generally remains the same. Coogan and Brydon loosely play themselves, with the pair being commissioned to drive through Italy, see the sights and enjoy the food for an English newspaper.
If one is not familiar with the pair, Brydon may be less of a recognizable commodity to American viewers, but Coogan has appeared in smaller roles in films like Hot Fuzz and Tropic Thunder, among others, and the pair have worked with each other off and on since 2005's A Cock And Bull Story, which Winterbottom also directed. The chemistry that Brydon and Coogan have is felt almost immediately and is a great treat to experience. Both are comedians, with Coogan's wit perhaps being smartly placed in moments, and Brydon's experience with impressions having a surprising breadth, be it Michael Caine, Michael Buble or Al Pacino. You get a lot of Pacino and De Niro in The Trip To Italy because, well, Italy.
There would appear to be some similarities in The Trip series in the same vein of My Dinner With Andre, in that both are dialogue-driven, at or around a restaurant. But the material that the characters discuss in Andre is different and far more serious than either Trip film would infer. The relationship Brydon and Coogan share is more jovial, with occasional dalliances into the real life of each, whether it is Coogan's life in Los Angeles or Brydon's infidelity that occurs in Italy. While each character has their moments with their families, neither seeks to counsel the other on any possible conflict. If it's volunteered, so be it, but I think when it comes to males interacting with one another in 2014, we will comfort if called upon, but we would rather avoid it if we have to. That dynamic, while apparent in both Trip movies, isn't advertised. It just is. And combined with the atmosphere of good food (which the films have given lots of due love and attention to), viewers get drawn into the discussion and meals easily.
For those who experienced the first Trip, there does tend to be a limit to what you can experience through Brydon and Coogan's eyes. You could sense this in the first installment, and in this romp through Italy, while admittedly being enjoyable, has some small character problems that feel forced, whether it's Rob's surprising audition for a Michael Mann film or Steve's attempt to keep up his connection with his son. While Brydon and Coogan sense the futility of doing things for a second time and say as much, it does not seem to stop them from introducing story elements that may entertain them but take away from the reason why a lot of us are here, which is to enjoy the company of two funny guys over some bitchin' food.
The Trip To Italy is fun, but once you are done with it, it is somewhat forgettable. Considering the premise of the movie coming in there is some suspension of disbelief to invest before pressing play, but it seems even for a film like this that the stars are not throwing themselves in completely to the trip. And if they don't, why should we?
The Blu-ray Disc:
The AVC encode gracing this 1.85:1 widescreen presentation of The Trip To Italy in high-definition is generally without complaint. The Italian exteriors are given appropriate time and justice, looking positively breathtaking, whether they are the green countrysides or blues in the ocean water. There appears to be some minor moments of haloing around the characters, but nothing prevalent enough to deter, and image detail on exteriors looks nice, although in the latter half of the film tends to be a touch inconsistent. Overall, I had little qualms.The Sound:
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track is fine, though it does not have that much to do. The road trip is accompanied by Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" and the songs are clear but lack any low-end oompf. Dialogue is well-balanced through the film, and though it lacks any channel panning or directional effects to convey any sense of immersion, one would have to assume it could handle whatever could have been thrown at it.Extras:
A pantload of deleted scenes, 14 in total I believe, running 26 minutes. In between the alternate takes and Brydon and Coogan riffing on Michael Caine, Shakira and disposing of a dead hooker, you are pretty much good to go here, as the trailer (2:24) is the only other extra on the disc.Final Thoughts:
For those who have not experienced Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon chatting and cracking wise over some great looking food that is likely great tasting to boot, The Trip To Italy is as good a jumping off point as any to. With that said, much like the first film, it tends to suffer under its lighthearted nature, perhaps all the more so because the conflicts feel even more forced than they did in the first film. Technically, the film looks and sounds great, and the bonus material is virtually non-existent. But if you have not seen either film, this is a nice place to start.