The Trip to Italy
Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
From IFC Films
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
The Trip to Italy is a travelogue with Michael Caine, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, but without all the aggravation of, you know, Michael Caine, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Actors, yes; travel guides, no.
In their place are Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, best friends playing themselves in what can only loosely be described as a film. It’s more food channel globe-trotting. Think of an Anthony Bourdain reality show, but with Batman impersonations. Yes, Coogan and Brydon are prone to impersonations, including several from the Batman franchise, from which they do muffled Tom Hardys and half a dozen varieties of Michael Caine. The two actors share conversations in other men’s voices, and to them it’s just natural and fluid. In the middle of their impersonations they dine on glorious Italian feasts, peer out over gorgeous vistas and cozy up in hotel rooms that are likely more expensive for one night than most people’s homes for a month.
Fine food, impersonations and fancy locations. This is generally the ebb and flow The Trip to Italy, which is a sequel to 2010’s The Trip, both of which are culled from episodes of the BBC show, also called The Trip. There is not much plot, other than what is established in the dialogue: Steve misses his son and communicates frequently with him, and Rob has a family back at home that would be dismayed at his vacation activities. Food is eaten, scenes are taken in, hotel beds are crashed into, and then it all starts again the next day as the two men bop through Italy for a newspaper article about food and travel.
The scenes of the men chatting are intercut with B-roll of locals walking through their city squares, little European cars rumbling up cobbled streets, and of line cooks tossing sizzling vegetables and sous chefs plating elaborate appetizers. This could all be very pretentious and boring if not for Steve and Rob’s contradictory interests: there they are in the pinnacle of luxury talking about Bane’s facemask from the The Dark Knight Rises. Had they gone to opera one of them would have brought a whoopie cushion along.
The impersonations, it must be said, are very good. Their Michael Caine voices have been heard before, but they never get old. Not only can they do Caine, but they can do him from a variety of eras — from the Italians Jobs’ shouting to the Dark Knight’s weepiness. They also do convincing versions of Anthony Hopkins, Woody Allen, Hugh Grant, Roger Moore and Sean Connery, and yes, Pacio and De Niro. Much of the dialogue is disposable, though several lines are worth keeping. In one scene, Steve comments about a women, “She has a lovely gait.” Rob adds: “It’s probably padlocked.” At one point they put in Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette so they can croon nostalgia through the Italian countryside.
If you saw the first Trip, or enjoy the TV series, then you know what you’re walking into. If not, then The Trip to Italy might be a hard sale. Too little happens, and what does happen is repeated from scene to scene. The locations are amazing, and the food will turn your stomach into a big hungry knot, but the film doesn’t have much to offer other than Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, both of whom are likable guys.
But here’s the thing about vacations: no matter how much you like your travel companions, you eventually get sick of them. That’s the case with your every family vacation ever, and also with The Trip to Italy.