Paris Can Wait, indeed – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back to show us once again how a real road trip foodie movie is done.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Once again playing heightened versions of themselves, funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are commissioned for a third series of restaurant reviews – this time in a road trip across Spain. As the pair soak in the sights and enjoy a delicious selection of varied food and drink, their banter is business as usual as they indulge in sing-alongs, poke fun at each other’s careers, ruminate on aging and their mid-life crises, boast their own trivial knowledge of the country and, of course, attempt to one-up each other over who can do the best celebrity impersonations.
It seems crazy to think that one of cinema’s most consistently and reliably entertaining trilogies (quadrilogies, if you count Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) could consist entirely of the improvised arguments of two British comedians and very little else, but Michael Winterbottom’s third freeform, fourth-wall destroying entry in The Trip series is a typically hilarious ride, even if The Trip to Spain does begin to show signs of self-indulgence and a clever premise wearing thin.
Edited down from a three-hour miniseries to a two-hour movie like before, this streamlines the best bits of Coogan and Brydon’s adventure into a pacier ride that doesn’t quite overstay its welcome. Anyone familiar with the previous movies will know the formula; the week-long binge of bickering around historical landmarks and gourmet meals, in between which the men deal with their personal issues involving their children and the women in their lives, all the while attempting to remain relevant as actors and writers.
But like many continuing series, this does suffer a little from diminishing returns. The first Trip was so fresh and funny because Coogan was reluctant to take Brydon along and spend a week with him. He was the somewhat straight man irritated by Brydon’s more eccentric persona, giving them a perfect odd couple dynamic. It’s still sort-of here, but now the two seem to have grown into quite good friends – at one point Coogan, uncharacteristically, is unable to contain his laughter at one of Brydon’s bits; a betrayal of the superiority complex he’s held over Brydon until now. They’re still great fun to watch together, but they can never reach the same brilliant antagonism they once shared.
Also doing the film a disservice are its attempts at dramatic elements, of which there are more than ever before. Appearing in the latter half, these moments fall flat from clear scripting, making them at odds with the in-the-moment main meat of the movie. It’s an admirable effort to keep things fresh, but it’s too big a clash with the giddy tone of the improv that has gathered this series a following. The ending, too, should have been left on the cutting room floor; it’s far too abruptly outlandish and unbelievable for an otherwise entirely realistic trilogy.
But these are relatively minor quibbles for a film that’s impossible not to like, particularly if you’re a fan of the actors and their previous trips. It’s an irresistibly cruisy and pleasant vacation, with plenty for the eyes to feast on and even more to laugh at.
The Trip to Spain is available in Australian cinemas from August 3
Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment