In a summer full of sequels, who would have thought one of the best ones would feature two British comedians having even more conversations over dinner?
Such is the case with the highly amusing and even occasionally poignant “The Trip to Italy.” The film is a sequel to “The Trip,” which was first shot as a BBC television series and then edited down into a feature film.
The same thing applies to “The Trip to Italy” with the comedians in question being Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprising their roles as fictionalized versions of themselves (think Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).
The conceit is the two have been commissioned by a newspaper to go on a restaurant tour through Italy while visiting historic haunts of English poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.
Coogan and Brydon have a great rapport, thanks mostly to a mild, constant antagonism. Coogan has enjoyed a more recognizable career and plays up his celebrity insecurities, while Brydon is the constant clown, a gifted mimic who is always “on” and is slightly jealous of Coogan’s success.
Their schtick is Coogan pretends to be annoyed by Brydon’s relentless personality, while Brydon continually baits Coogan into sinking down to his level. This is probably best typified by their now-famous clip from “The Trip,” where the two face off with dueling, flawless Michael Caine impersonations.
There’s more of the same this time around as the two riff on their careers, their personal lives, and the world in general.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the third creative force behind “The Trip” series and that is writer/director Michael Winterbottom, who is able to make these movies feel both intimate and expansive. In one moment, you’re pulled up to the table, drawn into the conversation; and in the next, you’re rolling through the countryside experiencing all the astonishing sights and sounds Italy has to offer.
There’s no real plot aside from Coogan attempting to connect with his teenage son and Brydon experiencing some unexpected ups and downs in his marriage and career.
As you would expect, there are plenty of laughs to be had here, but there are maudlin undertones that run throughout the movie as death and mortality are regular topics of conversation, especially when we arrive at points of interest involving Byron and Shelley.
What makes “The Trip to Italy” work so well is these sadder notes fit right in without throwing off the comedic tone and serves to give a little weight to something that otherwise would feel like little more than a collection of funny YouTube clips.
With the great chemistry and rhythm Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom have discovered, I suspect we haven’t seen the end of “The Trip” movies, which is fine with me. In fact, I can’t wait to see where we get to go next.
“The Trip to Italy” is not rated, but features adult language.