2020 | rated PG-13 | starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon | directed by Michael Winterbottom | 1 hr 43 mins |
Over the last 10 years, The Trip has slowly become one of the most endearing, hilarious and dare I say essential comedy series to grace movie screens. I anticipate each new entry, priming myself with clips of the previous films in which Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan both capture and influence the comedy zeitgeist. It started with The Trip catching fire with hilarious sequences of Brydon and Coogan tangling in acting and impression showdowns mimicking everyone from Michael Caine to Liam Neeson to Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. They blew the bloody doors off with The Trip to Italy, The Dark Knight of the series, an absolutely hilarious ride through Batman, Bond, Pacino, more Caine and Alanis Morsette. After the baffling ending of The Trip to Spain, we get The Trip to Greece and the promise of a final European road trip. Who needs Rick Steves with Coogan and Byrdon at the wheel.
Series director Michael Winterbottom knows this is our 4th time and dispenses with the set-up, starting the movie – boom – with the pair’s first meal as they launch off to a land of Greek mythology, architecture, feminine statues, fine Greek food and even sirens lying on the rocks. This year’s article is to retrace the path Odysseus took in The Odyssey and the pair has brushed up on their Greek god – and Grease – jokes. There are no impression-offs to rival the ones in the previous films, through a riff on Dustin Hoffman’s filmography, what Roger Moore’s Bond might have to say about staying at the “Hotel Lesbian” and Brydon hilariously pulling a Hercules in New York reference out of left field are highlights.
Where the first two films found two competitive comedians and best friends fighting to amuse each other, Spain and Greece take a more somber, existential tone. Greece is generally funnier and more entertaining than Spain, but both have the impression that a dynamic has flipped between the friends. Coogan leans heavy into the pompous actor persona, increasingly concerned with showing off well rehearsed high culture and literature facts for the cameras. Where Spain found Coogan’s career post-Philomena, Greece picks up post-Stan and Ollie and a 7th BAFTA win for playing Stan Laurel. He seems increasingly disinterested, with Brydon working up a storm to bring him back to the comic table or get him to crack a smile. Coogan has cast himself as the villain and Brydon the nice guy, yet even at that you get glimpses into a life where listening to Brydon be “on” all the the time would be obnoxious or exhausting.
This might be the best looking Trip yet with Winterbottom capturing overhead shots of the duo swimming in the coast’s beautiful blue bays. He pulls in an orchestral score I can only recall from the Quatsi Trilogy and uses it to great effect. The film ultimately seeks to tug at the heart-strings and, with a nice bit of earned understatement showing that these movies themselves learn from the movies they mock, it works. He also captures lots of repeated shots of the waitress walking back and forth from the table so it’s not exactly high art either, but it’s nice.
All good Trips must come to an end and if we’ve had the last food voyage with Byrdon and Coogan I can just thank them for the laughs. Theses movies – loosely plotted, effortlessly improved and so entertaining – are unlike anything else out there. Part travel film, part culinary documentary, part hang0ut comedy. Their classical pacing and deep bench of references bucks the trend of every studio trend that tightly plots and holds the audiences hand. Greece is a rock solid ending to a great series.