The Trip Dir: Michael Winterbottom

Ever wish you were stuck in a car with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon? If not, or more likely, if you never gave the idea any consideration, you will after seeing The Trip.

Coogan and Brydon team up again with director Michael Winterbottom…the trio worked together previously on Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. As they did there, Coogan and Brydon play a slightly fictionalized version of themselves here. Coogan is divorced, single (his on and/off again girlfriend is working in the States) and is frustrated with his career (he is desperate forHollywood to wake up and discover his boundless talents).

When he is offered a cushy job of a celebrity food critic by The Observer, his girlfriend bails out and Coogan reluctantly asks Brydon to join him on the week-long road trip throughEngland’sLake District, reviewing upscale restaurants and inns along the way.

Brydon is Coogan’s opposite…happily married, comfortable in his work. Fortunately the two of them share a similar sharp sense of humour.

The bulk of the film consists of Coogan and Brydon either at the dinner table or in the car, trading pointed barbs with each other. Brydon fancies himself a top impressionist and the scenes with the two of them trying various takes on Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Al Pacino are priceless. The two comedians are obviously improvising and the spontaneity of their humour is exhilarating.

But there is more to this film than jokes, impressions, beautiful scenery and good food. The relationship between Coogan and Brydon carries a certain amount of both darkness and affection. The poignancy is heightened when Coogan is forced to decide between a Hollywood career or remaining inEnglandto be with his son.

In an era when male-oriented comedies (The Hangover) are jammed with juvenile one-liners and not much else, it’s a pleasure to witness two intelligent middle-aged guys who are talented, funny and human…and not afraid to warble Abba tunes in the car together at the top of their lungs.

 Marty Duda