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Trip to Italy, The
IFC Films // Unrated // August 15, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
If you have seen director Michael Winterbottom's The Trip from 2010, then you know the type of magic that can come from a strong comedic duo on screen. It features no more than food, wine, impersonations, and conversation. Yet, it all manages to be so incredibly captivating. Few pictures have the ability to pulls us in, make us truly feel for its two leads, and laugh out loud in the same manner. With the success of the first film, Winterbottom is back with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for a sequel. Not much has changed, but it proves to remain just as captivating as its predecessor, even with its lack of originality.
Steve (Steve Coogan) and Rob (Rob Brydon) meet up once again in order to take a road trip around Italy. Audiences follow the two men to six different restaurants in six different locations, including Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi, and Capri. With a change of scenery comes with changes in character and morals, as they continue to explore themselves and discuss the family life, age, pop culture, and more.
Given that the actors are playing themselves, it allows for a much more authentic tone that rarely graces the screen in this way. Similar to that of its predecessor, The Trip to Italy aims to make us laugh quite frequently. Fortunately, the film hits its mark nearly every single time. The two leads bring back several jokes from the first, such as Michael Caine impersonations, which are still funny. However, a lot has happened in pop culture over the past few years, allowing for some new hilarious conversations to rise to the surface. This includes discussions about The Dark Knight Rises and similar topics. It all flows so well, and the laughs are relentless. This especially holds true about the first third of the feature, as the two feel the need to catch up on such references. Of course, there are other gags to be found throughout that work just as well. Even if the plot itself doesn't necessarily interest you, at least you'll be laughing throughout it.
Even though there are some new jokes to be found, the plot beats remain exactly the same as before. Rather than making any actual changes, Winterbottom simply switched some emotional characteristics between the two. This leaves us with absolutely nothing different when it comes to the plot's development. When the film occasionally decides to take on a more serious tone, The Trip to Italy seems to have run out of ideas. Laziness has settled in, as Winterbottom fails to point them in any truly meaningful direction. Coogan and Brydon have aged a few years, yet life hasn't developed them as human beings? I absolutely refuse to believe that. A lot could have been done with this angle, as it could have provided something truly different and unique.
Putting that aside, the film has an excellent sense of pacing and timing. It moves at a reasonable pace, as it remains entertaining from start to finish. Certain conversations could have easily been cut too short, or gone on for too long. Fortunately, such things never happen. Some gags go on for quite some time, which then leads to another gag, but one single conversation never outstays its welcome. The Trip to Italy must have been quite difficult to edit together, as this aspect of storytelling could make or break a film such as this. In this case, it manages to elevate the motion picture in extraordinary ways. The Trip to Italy flows so well, that it ends unexpectedly. The screen simply goes black, and the credits roll. While the film never necessarily gives us a sense of closure, it simply shows us that we desire more. This is always a good problem to have at the cinema.
Casting was absolutely critical in 2010's The Trip. After all, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are the film. Without them, this wouldn't have worked. The chemistry shared between Coogan and Brydon is outstanding, as they continue to bounce energy off of one another. The comedic delivery is absolutely spot on. The jokes themselves are humorous, but the delivery truly creates the laughter. Every sentence flows so naturally, as they move from one gag to the next. Even when the story moves to its more sentimental moments, the two men remain entirely convincing. Playing oneself on screen can be difficult, but these two truly manage to make it seem as if we're a fly on the wall, simply witnessing a road trip between long-time friends.
The Trip to Italy is proof that I would be happy to watch Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon talk for many more hours. This is a friendship that simply radiates. The humor is so incredibly infectious, as the cinema is sure to fill with laughter. The impersonations remain as effective as ever. However, the film fails to really do anything different with what was seen in its predecessor. It feels as if this angle was a hugely missed opportunity that could have transformed a great film into a near-perfect one. Regardless, Coogan and Brydon continue to deliver on high expectations. The Trip to Italy is one of the funniest trip you'll take to the cinema this year. Highly recommended!