The Trip brings director Michael Winterbottom and the hilarious Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE, A COCK AND BULL STORY) back together in a side-splitting road comedy. When Steve Coogan is asked by The Observer to tour the country’s finest restaurants, he envisions it as the perfect getaway with his beautiful girlfriend. But, when she backs out on him, he has no one to accompany him but his best friend and source of eternal aggravation, Rob Brydon.
The Trip should have been something throwaway; six short episodes of slight-gags, sing-alongs and sophisticated dining, but instead it was one of the funniest things that I have seen in quite some time. At least half of its running time is dedicated to doing impressions and yet by the end of the series you are still want to go up to the pair and ask what do you got that can blow the doors off; each impersonation not only adds to the character making it but is almost a character in its own sense. Then you have the constant one-upmanship between the two leads, their wry responses to the waiting staff at each restaurant and their general chemistry which I for one would be willing to commit to seeing each week on TV for seven years. Alas this movie length effort is all we have, but the trio (Winterbottom deserves a lot of credit for the writing/directing of the series) manage to cram as much laughter as is physically possible into what they do deliver.
And yet all this frivolity never gets in the way of what is at the heart of the piece, these two actors and their relationships. Whereas Tristram Shandy went meta as an intellectual exercise this follow-up weaves together lies and truth to create deeply authentic, fictional tragedy. The entire film is scripted; this is not really Steve Coogan, nor is it Steve Coogan’s real life and yet even knowing this you cannot help but believe what you are seeing is a veritable insight: because him and Brydon are known for their catch-phrases, because he really is 44 years old, because those really are their chins and because Coogan’s career has stumped. There is a great pathos to the piece that underlines, rather than undercuts, all of the comedy; both of which the amazing scenery of the North exacerbates magnificently.
You’ll laugh and you’ll cry, but those are almost easy achievements in comparison to what else the show manages; not only does it make you want to visit the North, but it actually had me starving to try English cuisine. Who knew such a thing was possible? Who knew that term wasn’t simply a misnomer?