The Trip: Film Review

Michael Winterbottom's listless foody travelogue "The Trip" is made up of highlights from a six-part BBC series that has yet to air, but if these are the best bits then no one will mind waiting.

TORONTO -- Michael Winterbottom's listless foody travelogue The Trip is made up of highlights from a six-part BBC series that has yet to air, but if these are the best bits then no one will mind waiting.

The film follows British comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, on a driving tour of restaurants in the north of England. Each day sees them arrive at a new village with hotel rooms to mock and restaurants in which they demonstrate an acute ignorance of all things culinary.

The project suffers badly from being largely improvised as the pair fall back on familiar impressions and old jokes. Lazy and indulgent, it smacks of being what the British call a "jolly," that is a freebie with no obligation to turn in work afterward. Prospects for the film are as dim as for the TV show.

The setup is that Coogan supposedly is writing a feature for the Observer newspaper, but he knows nothing about food, asks no questions at the restaurants and takes no notes. Instead, he and Brydon launch into contests to see who can do the best impression of Michael Caine and several other actors.

Brydon, in fact, goes into impressions at the drop of a napkin, even when calling home to his much-missed wife, jokingly seeking phone sex in the voice of Hugh Grant.

Being Welsh, Brydon always has the voices of Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen on his tongue so that even Coogan at one point tells him that anyone over 40 who still does impressions should take a hard look in the mirror.

When he's not anguishing over his career and distant girlfriend even while bonking local women, Coogan joins in the funny voice parade, and there are several minutes given to competing Woody Allen impressions using many of the comedian's old gags, which is about it for laughs.

Michael Nyman's sprightly score deserves better, but it's something to enjoy along with cinematographer Ben Smithard's lovely images of the countryside in the Lake District and elsewhere even though the filmmakers elected to shoot in overcast wintertime.

Coogan's father sums up the whole thing in a comment on the pair's banter. "It must be exhausting keeping all this going on," he says. Coogan replies, "Yes. Exhausting for everyone." It's true.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production: Revolution Films, Baby Cow Prods., Arbie Prods
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Producers: Andrew Eaton, Melissa Parmenter
Executive producers: Henry Normal, Simon Lupton
Director of photography: Ben Smithard
Music: Michael Nyman
Editors: Mags Arnold, Paul Monaghan
Sales: Revolution Films
No rating, 109 minutes

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