By: Mark Di Stefano
Rating: 8 out of 10
British humor, while not as vulgar or straightforward as current American based material, still is a place for prime comedy (and it’s still pretty vulgar). From the Monty Python films to “The Office” (U.K.) series, humor in Britain has been always growing and expanding to new audiences. The Trip is a film that strives to reach American audiences with the comedic stylings of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and it does to a degree.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip is a mockumentary staring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing fictionalized versions of themselves with the same names. In the film, Steve is a struggling actor who’s paid to be a food critic for a week touring the restaurants along the countryside. Since he split up with his girlfriend and has no one else to go with, he brings fellow actor Brydon to be his sidekick for the journey.
The duo reprises their “characters” from the successful 2006 film Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. The Trip is actually the BBC series of the same name that aired in 2010, with the episodes edited together to create a feature film. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010 and was distributed by IFC Films this year for the U.S. run.
The duo of Coogan and Brydon is nothing short of brilliance. Coogan, an already established comedian with films like Hamlet 2 and The Other Guy, is quickly becoming one of the prominent voices in British humor. Brydon, known for his extensive television and radio work, as well as, his “small man trapped in a box” routine, has a delightful and witty presence on screen. Winterbottom, who worked with Brydon and Coogan numerous times in the past, is perhaps best known for his breakout directorial credits, including A Mighty Heart and The Killer Inside Me. With these performers specifically, it’s as if he can let go of the reigns when working with them, but is able to tighten it when it’s time to progress.
Their “characters,” while they’re exaggerated versions of the actors, don’t stray too far from the truth. Coogan’s character is more egotistical and career envy, whereas Brydon’s is the lighthearted counterpart. They bicker with one another throughout not to see who’s better (well, maybe), but in good sport. Throughout the film they see who can do better impersonations of Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, and many other famous actors. Rather than actually reviewing the food they both make humorous, general observations, making it seem that them being there was pointless; however, with jokes coming in left and right, who’s really complaining? Being that the film had no script the lines were all improvised, and the jokes were non-stop on delivery.
The film, as funny as it is, can be dry from time to time. Generally British humor is dry, but in the film when there are scenes that don’t involve Coogan and Brydon together, they’re not as interesting as the latter. Whenever Coogan calls in to check on his ex-girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley), the purpose is for character development, but they make you yearn for the better scenes.
The Trip, despite being flat in parts, is one of this year’s comedies that will stand out amongst the rest. The jokes are non-stop and the laughs keep coming. American audiences might not flock to see the film, but when given the chance, they’ll gain delight and enjoyment not offered by any other typical comedy.