The Trip to Spain
Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
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So, it is a formula. Who cares, when you have these two in full flow?
It has been seven years since Michael Winterbottom persuaded Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon that their off-the-cuff banter (originally seen on the set of Tristram Shandy) was so good that they could blarney their way through a whole film (The Trip, 2010). Then they made it to Italy in 2014. So, you can just imagine the genesis for this one. “Where shall we go this time? Spain’s nice this time of year. Spain’s nice any time of year…”
So, the boys, well, middle aged men (fifty is the new forty), are off again on the flimsiest of excuses, sampling the seafood and doing those killer impressions all over again. And why not?
As implied, this shouldn’t really be a series. Critics will fall over themselves to point out that the beats are all the same – the set up shot of gourmet food hitting the pan, the cut to the two comedians at the table with the wait-staff hovering, then there has to be a sequence in the car (Steve’s very new-looking Range Rover) where they cover a kitsch song amusingly, and of course, the vistas that are so wonderful they lift your spirits just panning across them. There’s a bit of an arc of a narrative too, for Steve at least, as his agent deserts him and his love life tanks. Rob, by comparison, has a loyal wife and two adoring kids so he can feign the desire to escape but be safe in the knowledge of what he can go back to. There is an implicit comparison of their life choices or destinies and that little touch of competitiveness, beyond just their ability to do impressions, which adds a note of piquancy.
The heart of the appeal is still the impressions though and their extraordinary ability to riff on these in character as it were. Some of these sequences are to die for. No spoilers here but just an antipasto. The bit where they do Sir Anthony Hopkins from The Bounty is touched with comic genius. There are many other really delicious exchanges too and you find yourself laughing out loud at quite a few points in the film.
So, it is a formula. Who cares, when you have these two in full flow? Frankly they could hop round a few more European countries as Winterbottom’s original insight into this unlikely conceit manages to still hold.