I can’t recall having seen a film that made me giggle for nearly two hours. Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” managed to do so with such sophisticated wit and downright silliness, I had a difficult time wiping the smile off my face long after leaving the theater.
In Winterbottom’s second collaboration (“Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”) with the two main characters (Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon), the actors play fictionalized versions of themselves. Steve’s a struggling actor, and Rob’s a loving family man. When Steve is assigned by the Observer (not ours) to go off on a food trip to northern England, he asks Rob to accompany him. Steve makes it clear to Rob that he was his fourth or fifth choice. Thus begins the war of wit.
Both have the uncanny gift of impersonating actors. And they do so with such fierce competitiveness, it’s incredibly hilarious. Their dueling Michael Caines, Sean Connerys and Woody Allens are endless and as delicious as the scrumptious food they consume. It’s as though they’re on stage, but no one’s listening.
There’s not much of a plot in “The Trip,” but it doesn’t need one. These two blokes and their constant character assassinations are pure genius to watch. At one point Rob asks Steve if he’d rather win an Oscar or have his son be healthy. There is a huge pause as the camera fixates on Steve’s ruminating countenance. I laughed out loud, as did the entire audience.
Winterbottom also manages to dispel the myth of British cuisine. The food upon which Steve and Rob dine is exquisite, but the odd couple is so consumed with the uproarious rantings, they barely utter a word about their meals.
At times, the beautiful English landscapes almost go unnoticed due to the incredibly funny discourse between Steve and Rob. Winterbottom lends immense credibility to the adage, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” in “The Trip.” And what a delightful journey it is.