Monday, September 1, 2014


Although I did laugh out loud quite a bit while watching The Trip To Italy, I found the overall experience to be a little underwhelming. Was there really a need to make a sequel to The Trip? I know that sounds a little harsh, but I think the team of Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon have taken the genre of playing slightly fictionalized versions of one's real self as far as it can go (just my opinion). This movie reminded me why I vowed to stop watching all those Judd Apatow-related movies that feature some combination of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Justin Long, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Jay Baruchel, Jason Segal, etc etc etc. I enjoyed Pineapple Express & 40 Year Old Virgin, but once you've seen those movies, you’ve kind of seen 'em all. Do I really wanna pay money to watch a bunch of real life friends hang out on camera and do stupid shit? I can hang out with my own friends and do silly stupid shit for no money at all. I guess the reason why Steve Coogan gets a pass with me on all that is because I think he's far more talented & funnier than Seth Rogen & Co. (I know it’s easy to pick at & dump on Judd Apatow movies these days but god damn...enough is enough). I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – I always wished we (Americans) got Steve Coogan instead of Hugh Grant (one of the many celebrities Brydon & Coogan impersonate in The Trip To Italy). He’s extremely talented and has been underused in mainstream film until recently (Philomena). It’s almost a crime at how little he was used in Tropic Thunder (a common theme in these Trip movies is Coogan's desire to break in to mainstream American cinema).

In The Trip To Italy, Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon take on a new celebrity food criticism assignment which allows them to travel too places like Rome, Liguria & Capri. Through the course of the trip they see the sights, talk about their careers and deal with family issues back home, all while listening to Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill album. This film focuses a lot more on Brydon this time around. He's having problems back home with his wife and he's up for a co-starring role in a (fictionalized) Michael Mann film.
Coogan & Brydon play off of the same things that made the first film funny - Michael Caine impersonations, really bad Al Pacino impressions and Steve Coogan’s insecurities about his career. But that’s not to say they don’t bring anything new to the table. The duo takes a stab at Tom Hardy’s Bane, Robert Deniro's mannerisms & generic American accents.
There’s some emphasis placed on the food, but not as much as in the first film. In fact, you almost forget that they’re on a writing assignment. Winterbottom makes it a point to shoot the food and show the cooks behind the scenes working, but it feels more like Coogan & Brydon are just on vacation hanging out.

I’d be lying if I said this film wasn’t nice to look at also. Italy is a beautiful place and Winterbottom gets that across to the viewers. The Trip To Italy made me a little nostalgic. I spent some time in Rome studying architecture for school in my early 20’s. During my time in Italy I never ventured outside of Rome and this film made me regret not going to places like Capri & Liguria. 
Another huge thing this film missed out on was not really showing the locals. I like to think I’m more experienced in European travel than the average American (besides Rome, I’ve spent plenty of time in Paris, Barcelona & London), so I can weigh in on this. Italians have that cliche reputation for being passionate & overly emotional (and it's kinda true), but they’re also some of the warmest & friendliest people. They engage you on the street and even invite you in to their home for dinner (or maybe that was just my own personal Italian experience). Think back a few years ago to Certified Copied (another movie set in Italy starring two non-Italians). How many times did co-stars Juliet Binoche & William Shimell interact with all the locals through the course of the film? Plenty. That’s a very Italian thing to do. With the exception of one scene with an Italian hotel receptionist, at no point do Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon truly interact with or have any funny improvised moments with any of the Italians they’re surrounded by. In fact, the only other supporting characters of substance in The Trip To Italy are other brits.

I’d advise all of you to take this review with a grain of salt. My relationship with Michael Winterbottom’s filmography is a lil’ funny. Besides people that are actually from Manchester, I highly doubt anyone loves 24 Hour Party People as much as I do. The problem with that is I’m always hoping Michael Winterbottom to deliver something just as great (and the fact that his latest film stars two of the main actors from 24 Hour Party People makes my expectations that much greater). I know that’s not a fair expectation, but it is what it is. Winterbottom has certainly put out other films I really enjoy over the years (Tristram Shandy, The Trip, etc) but nothing quite like 24 Hour Party People in my eyes. For a sequel, The Trip To Italy doesn’t have the kind of plot that’ll lose you if you haven’t seen the first one. Even if you aren’t familiar with the work of Michael Winterbottom or Steve Coogan, it’s impossible for someone to not find some laughs in this, which is ultimately the point. I guess I just hold Michael Winterbottom to a higher standard for some strange unfair reason.


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