Friday, May 6, 2016

The Trip

Year 8, Day 127 - 5/6/16 - Movie #2,327

BEFORE: Actor Steve Coogan carries over from "Around the World in 80 Days" - here he plays an actor named Steve Coogan, so it seems like this is the role he was born to play, unless this is a highly fictionalized version of himself.

THE PLOT: Steve Coogan has been asked by The Observer to tour the country's finest restaurants, but after his girlfriend backs out on him he must take his best friend and source of eternal aggravation, Rob Brydon.

AFTER: I watched this as a feature film, which is how it aired on premium cable, without realizing that it's an edited-down version of a BBC TV series, comprising 6 episodes of presumably the same material.  Whether it works better as a film or as a series is a debatable point that I'm not prepared to discuss.  I'm only able to review what I've seen, which is the just-under two-hour long film. 

There are obvious similarities here to "Sideways", with two men going on a life-changing road trip, and to "My Dinner With Andre", which similarly focuses on what two male friends talk about while eating at restaurants - only this film has fewer conversations about theater and philosophy and more debate over who does the better Michael Caine impression.  Really, in the end, isn't that more important?  

I'm getting to know a little more about Steve Coogan, that's what this week seems to be all about, but I haven't watched a lot of BBC shows since "Benny Hill" was in syndication, so I don't know much about his time playing Alan Partridge, which seems to be like the British version of "The Larry Sanders Show". So far I've only seen him as the tiny Roman Centurion in the "Night at the Museum" films, and in small U.S. comedies like "Our Idiot Brother" and "Ruby Sparks".  If "The Trip" has any basis in reality, then he's struggled to get roles in Hollywood, losing many in the last few years to Michael Sheen.  

I know even less about Rob Brydon - from the context I gather that he's worked with Coogan on and off, and has also done a lot of work for the BBC, particularly due to his vocal impressions.  His voice seems naturally to be right in the same vocal range as Hugh Grant, so he's got a head-start on that one, with other favorites being Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Tom Jones and a few that I wasn't able to identify, and he seems to be known for throwing his voice to create a character called "The Man in the Box".  I guess I'm a little disappointed to learn that British people don't just sit around quoting lines from Monty Python's Flying Circus, like we geeks all do in America.   

There's an obvious contrast between the (fictional?) Coogan, a divorced father who's on a break from his girlfriend, and the married (fictional?) Brydon, who's not as interested in turning the road-trip into a succession of one-night stands with hotel employees and other women. And Brydon seems a lot like Bobby Moynihan's character in "Sisters", in that he's always ON, always quoting lines from movies, so you start to wonder if there's anything to him beyond that, or if he's overcompensating for having nothing genuine to say. 
But on the whole, I support the idea of road trips centered around food, God knows I've driven (OK, ridden) to Atlantic City and Connecticut in search of quality casino buffets, and to upstate New York or out to Long Island on a quest for delicious barbecue.  The next step would be for us to take a trip down South and go on a real BBQ crawl, from Memphis to Kansas City, or from Dallas to St. Louis or something.  That would be nice.  

Also starring Rob Brydon (last seen in "The World's End"), Margo Stilley (last seen in "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"), Paul Popplewell (last seen in "Twice Upon a Yesterday"), Claire Keelan, Rebecca Johnson, Dolya Gavanski, Kerry Shale, with a cameo from Ben Stiller (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"). 

RATING: 5 out of 10 ABBA songs

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