Friends Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon hit the road in a Range Rover for more food-based adventures and inspired comedic impressions in The Trip to Spain. Steve is still basking in his elevated celebrity after receiving two Oscar nominations for Philomena, but a new manager based in the U.S. may not have his best interests in mind. Meanwhile, Rob is getting used to his new role as a father. The showbiz pals banter about celebrity and the crises of middle age, but can their improvisation stay as fresh as the gourmet meals they consume?
The third entry in this Trip series – again, trimmed down from Michael Winterbottom’s six-episode BBC series of the same name – proves that this hilarious trilogy may have run its course. The Trip to Spain is only fitfully funny. Aside from a couple of ingenious impressions (David Bowie, Roger Moore, Mick Jagger), the laughs rarely arrive.
Meanwhile, it is hard to engage too closely with a film where the stakes are so low. There isn’t much rooting interest in Coogan’s resolve to win an Oscar or keep his old agent. (A subplot involving his will to write a book about his experience in Spain doesn’t get much play, either. We never see him write it or talk about his ideas beyond the most basic elements of an outline.) Meanwhile, Brydon’s role in the film is even less essential. There is some charming interplay between the comic actors and his family over Skype, but he doesn’t have much of a meaningful arc. (A couple of his impressions are even weak, like a wispy attempt of late-career Brando.)
The comedy rarely achieves much of a flow: even the restaurant sequences feature awkward cutaways to food sizzling on grills in the kitchen or being prepared by chefs. On television, hanging out with the actors and observing their fine chemistry has more value when savoured in bite-sized chunks. By the hour mark, The Trip to Spain (which runs around 110 minutes) starts to sag. A sense of repetition also marred the previous film in the series, but the sojourn to Italy had a larger hit-to-miss laugh ratio.
Finally, the film arrives at a sour final scene that is outrageously tasteless. If the dark joke that wraps the film was supposed to repel, it worked. However, if this is where the comedy’s aimless final third was supposed to lead, it is shocking that none of the people working on this production voiced their concern. The final minute of The Trip to Spain sinks a plodding film even further, with outdated political stereotyping that doesn’t work at all with the tone of the rest of the story.
Is The Trip to Spain Essential Viewing?
No. Some of Coogan and Brydon’s terrific impressions will be on YouTube soon. You can wait for those to come online.
The Trip to Spain opens Friday, August 4, 2017 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check their website for more information.