Aimless film gets a bit lost in La Mancha
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip to Spain.”