Release Date: August 11, 2017
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Runtime: 115 minutes
Michael Winterbottom’s third installment in the restaurateur adventures of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon shows that the model of over-the-top impressions, beautiful food porn and British male chauvinism is wearing thin. Brydon and Coogan are still quite funny, playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, but there are signs here that they know the routine is getting stale. At one point, Brydon has to resort to the last vestige of comedy, wading so long in the same joke that it stops being funny, only for it to become funny again once you’ve waded long enough.
And that’s really a shame because it shows that the writers (or at least the editors, as this is about a third the length of the limited TV series it was cut from) missed what made The Trip to Italy such a fresh addition to the premise. The Trip’s greatest weakness was that Coogan’s character was the only one with a real arc. He had troubles with drinking and with women and with a general sense that his once promising career was going down the toilet.
The Trip to Italy improved on this by giving Brydon demons of his own. It evened the score between the two men, giving each strong moments of pointing out the other’s insecurities and deepening their friendship as a result. Making Brydon a co-protagonist instead of a supporting player for Coogan to play off of made the whole experience better and set up one of the best endings of any film in 2014.
The Trip to Spain makes Coogan the protagonist again, and in doing so creates a plot that feels lazy in comparison to the previous films. It also leads to an ending that you would have to be sick to find funny. And it’s really the very end of the film that ruins the rest of the piece, which makes it difficult to discuss without spoilers. It’s entirely possible they aren’t playing the ending for laughs, but when you see it, you are mostly left gobsmacked by the inexplicability of its premise.
This film is still funny, and if you still find Brydon and Coogan doing competing Michael Caine impressions funny, then you will probably enjoy it. It just doesn’t live up to the heart found in the other two.