THE TRIP TO ITALY (M)
Dendy, Greater Union, Palace
Following in the footsteps and mis-steps of the Romantic poets, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon savour the wonders of Italian cuisine on a grand tour down the peninsula, from the Ligurian coast to a sun-drenched terrace in Capri. Rob is reviewing restaurants for the Observer, while his mate Steve has come along for the ride. It's a job, but what a gig, breezing along in a Mini convertible.
The concept was road-tested to great effect in The Trip in 2010. Director Michael Winterbottom, a maverick director who never did the same thing twice, has fallen for his own success with this one, banking on his lead actors pulling off the unexpected once again. Perhaps Winterbottom took a step back, wanting to see where his verbal sparring partners would take it a second time.
Better scene than heard: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon fail to deliver as enchanting a journey as The Trip. Photo: Supplied
Beetling around scenic locations and sampling the gastronomical venues in the Lake District of northern England in The Trip, Coogan and Brydon kept their journey alive with their banter and sharp impersonations. Who can do the best Michael Caine or Al Pacino is the sort of stuff you need when the going gets a little dull or the weather is closing in, and the destination more important than the journey. Maybe it's not the sort of thing you need when travelling through the Italian Riviera or the Tuscan hills in summertime.
Little time is spent on the culinary delights - perhaps there are enough cooking shows for that not to matter - but they don't really interact that much with the environment. Every now and then Coogan breaks through with something, such as what Lord Byron had to say about the Italian language, and how the poet Shelley met his end, but there's also a fair bit of introspection from a couple of blokes who wonder if they are a little past their prime.
Without a doubt, Coogan and Brydon are very talented and both are brilliant mimics. Coogan, cheeks stuffed with bread, does a great Brando impersonation and Brydon a really good De Niro. As the improv conversations riff freely off each other's wild ideas, you have to know your movies - and be prepared for a bit of icky taste.
Is the trip as funny as it was the first time? When it gets self-deprecatory and that isn't often enough, yes, but it's not as consistently entertaining. Bryden drives things hard, leaves little space for the playfulness we had before, and we don't get as much of Coogan this time. Humour is always a matter of taste, but this road trip with two funnymen through the wonders of Italy doesn't quite hit the mark.