Aim­less film gets a bit lost in La Man­cha

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Chang LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

The para­dox of “The Trip” movies is that they are al­ways hold­ing out the prom­ise of new ex­pe­ri­ences — new cities to ex­plore, new dishes to sa­vor, new his­toric and lit­er­ary land­marks to re­flect upon — even as they ad­here to a pat­tern of rep­e­ti­tion and re­as­sur­ance that is pretty much the op­po­site of nov­elty. Whether this is part of these movies’ ir­re­sistible charm or ev­i­dence of their lim­i­ta­tions is en­tirely up to you, and prob­a­bly be­side the point in any case.

It would be a plea­sure to re­port that “The Trip to Spain,” the third fea­ture adapted from the Michael Win­ter­bot­tom-di­rected sit­com, amounted to more than just an­other heav­ily im­pro­vised jaunt through some pic­turesque Euro­pean coun­try­side in the wit­tily self-ag­gran­diz­ing com­pany of Steve Coogan and Rob Bry­don, gamely play­ing fic­tion­al­ized ver­sions of them­selves. But it would also be a ‘The Trip to Spain’ No rat­ing Run­ning time: 1 hour, 51 min­utes be­trayal — of not only the au­di­ence’s ex­pec­ta­tions but also the spirit of these some­times en­chant­ing, in­vari­ably ir­ri­tat­ing pro­ceed­ings.

You might well ar­gue that this lat­est fea­ture-length ad­ven­ture is the least sat­is­fy­ing of the three, a sun­dap­pled test case for the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But in­so­far as these ad­ven­tures have al­ways swirled around the sub­ject of dis­ap­point­ment — a never-dis­tant sense of anx­i­ety and fail­ure that no amount of high epi­curean liv­ing can ul­ti­mately over­come — you might just as well say that the movie rep­re­sents the fullest ex­pres­sion of the se­ries’ ethos.

Coogan and Bry­don now hop a ferry to Spain, dock­ing at San­tander and then head­ing south through the Basque Coun­try en route to Málaga. Bry­don is once again fil­ing restau­rant re­views for the Ob­server, though this time the New York Times is in the as­sign­ment mix as well. Re­gard­less, any writ­ing they do is mere pre­text for sev­eral days’ worth of haute cui­sine, gor­geous scenery and pala­tial digs.

A cer­tain ex­haus­tion sets in well be­fore the end, col­laps­ing any mean­ing­ful dis­tinc­tion be­tween cam­era-hog­ging self- in­dul­gence and crit­i­cal scru­tiny. It would be one thing if Coogan and Bry­don’s ban­ter masked or at least hinted at a deeper emo­tional core, as it did in the best mo­ments of the ear­lier movies. But for long stretches here, they’re sim­ply coast­ing, talk­ing non­stop but never com­mu­ni­cat­ing; you may find your­self iden­ti­fy­ing with the restau­rant pa­trons, who as al­ways prove al­most will­fully in­dif­fer­ent to the rude and noisy celebri­ties in their midst. justin.chang@latimes.com

RORY MULVEY/IFC FILMS

Steve Coogan and Rob Bry­don in Michael Win­ter­bot­tom’s “The Trip to Spain.”

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