The phrase “it is what it is” is a plague on the English language. But in the case of The Trip to Italy, a sequel to 2010’s The Trip,
the intrinsic nature of the film—established by its predecessor and the
BBC miniseries from whence it is derived—remains unshifted, and wishing
the picture to deviate from its very being is a futile desire indeed.
If it were a Talking Heads album, it might be called More Scenes About Old Buildings, Midlife Crises, Celebrity Impersonations and Food.
Like in the first one, comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing
barely fictionalized versions of themselves, travel across a photogenic
European locale (guess which one) and sample local cuisine for a
magazine article, all as a setup for improvised riffs on kumquats,
Michael Bublé, movie sequels (naturally) and, of course, who does the
better Michael Caine impersonation. Other than moving from the British
countryside to the Italian coastline and swapping ABBA for Alanis
Morissette in the rental car’s CD player, it’s a more egregious Xerox of
the original than The Hangover Part II. But who’d want it to be anything else? The first Trip was
one of the best comedies of the past few years because it put complete
faith in the chemistry of its stars, and if the formula ain’t broke, why
give it a plot? If returns have diminished at all, it’s because we now
expect these dueling celebrity impressions, but still: Give me two hours
of nothing but Coogan and Brydon trading Michael Caines (and Al
Pacinos, and Anthony Hopkinses, and Tom Hardy’s Banes), and you can have
my $10. Again, there’s an undercurrent of melancholy about aging, which
here manifests itselfin a one-night stand, a dream sequence and a bout
of compulsive impersonations at the ruins of Pompeii. Again, director
Michael Winterbottom’s only apparent role is to frame the food porn and
sumptuous location photography. And again, it works. It is what it is,
and that is all it needs to be.
Critic’s Grade: B+
SEE IT: The Trip to Italy opens Friday at Cinema 21.