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Review: The Trip to Italy

Sequels are always worse than the original; except for Godfather 2. Then again, that’s always the one movie people can name when triumphing those stories returning for a second time.

That’s a bit of the back-and-forth postulation at the beginning of The Trip to Italy, director Michael Winterbottom’s second go with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing exaggerated versions of their selves as they take to the road. While fictionalized Coogan is a bit more chipper this time around, he questions the value of this duo once again setting out for six meals across a week with the end product a series of restaurant reviews for The Observer.

The sunnier, more romantic jaunt this time is to beautiful Italy, and as in The Trip, where the two spoke of Coleridge and Wordsworth, they find poetic muses, here with Shelley and Byron. There are also more recent poets like Tom Hardy and Christian Bale that the comedians summon, as Coogan and Brydon do not hold back with their hysterical impressions.

Filled with tempting dishes and even more inviting vistas, The Trip to Italy is bitingly sharp and funny from its opening moments, a sure-footed and exceedingly clever film that is as simple as it is smart. Like the first film, The Trip to Italy is an edited and condensed version of the British television series of the same name, but possessive of narrative purpose and coherency (the last scene is perfect).

For some moments of drama, Coogan welcomes his son to visit for one journey, while Brydon finds a romantic interest in a chaste deckhand. Like the comedy, however, these interludes are effortlessly inserted, so innocuous they are believably authentic and affecting.

Alanis Morissette is their soundtrack of choice and a Mini Cooper their ride (because, The Italian Job) as these two close and occasionally reluctant friends navigate their own version of Il Dolce Vita. The voices of Michael Caine and Al Pacino make their much-anticipated return, and together Coogan and Brydon impress with conversations both thoughtful and utterly absurd, both universally acceptable and intrinsically British.

The two are a remarkable pairing, perfectly in sync with comic (and poetic) precisions as they journey on lengthy pop culture tangents and offer philosophical musings. They are as much partners in crime as they are a bickering old couple. And indeed they are a couple you want to watch endlessly; they engage in something as pedestrian as driving to a restaurant and eating (granted, it is stunningly gorgeous backdrop and the food is mouthwatering), but the two enhance the environment rather than rest of its charm.

Brighter, cheerier, and more beautiful than its predecessor, The Trip to Italy is something you will savor in each moment, finding that rare feeling of complete satisfaction when it’s over. It also wouldn’t be that hard to be convinced of going back one more time.

[star v=45]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.