By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
When it comes to this comedy film series, either one likes it or one doesn’t. At least that seems to be my take from the mixed responses I get whenever mentioning it. I can totally get why these films aren’t one’s proverbial “cup of tea.” They can come across as self-indulgent, redundant, and lacking in proper story development. However, I feel that anyone expressing these views are missing the point. The Trip films are superbly executed exercises in comedy improvisation and subtle character development which celebrate and examine both the simple joys and, sometimes, disappointing realities of life. The latest installment has the series’s dynamic duo trading barbs, witticisms and more celebrity impression challenges amidst the beautiful country of Spain.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return for another journey through a European country where they can sample culinary delights, enjoy the scenery and history, and constantly challenge each other in the expected comedic ways. Now in their early fifties, Steve and Rob face their own personal challenges of getting older, maintaining successful careers, and dealing with their romantic and familial responsibilities. Though their trip allows them to relax, have a great time and occasionally get on each other’s nerves, it is merely an escape for their stress and troubles back home. Regardless of their troubles, the men always put their bravest faces forward and rarely let their guards down. Still, whether or not they are willing to admit it, the two rival actors share a friendship that they obviously enjoy and treasure.
Once again written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Trip to Spain offers more of the same, but in a different country, with different problems and with the protagonists at a later stage of their lives. Winterbottom, Coogan, and Brydon established this winning formula with 2010’s The Trip and, with each new installment, have not strayed far away from it. Much like similar films such as Linklater’s Before Trilogy, where a filmmaker checks in with the same characters after so many years, Winterbottom maintains his narrative structure allowing Coogan and Brydon to do their thing and improvise their often hilarious conversations and comedic antics. Though the structure remains the same, the creative minds behind this series do exceptional work in developing these characters by giving them not just problems that entertainers have, but genuine, real-world issues with which most people can relate. Though I highly enjoy Coogan and Brydon’s extended exercises in comedy improvisation, it is the mixture of tourism and what’s happening with the characters which keeps me engaged.
As far as the improvisations go, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are in top form here. I feel that their work gets better with every film. I re-watched the previous installments a few days prior to this screening and could see that with each film, the acting and improvisation gets better and feels more natural. That said; each film does get a bit long-winded in some sequences which run on longer than they should. The film also features returning actors Marta Barrio, Claire Keelan, Rebecca Johnson, Kerry Shale, and Margo Stilley.
For those who already adore this series, The Trip to Spain is a must-see. If one hasn’t already seen previous Trip installments and enjoy the comedy stylings of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, I strongly recommend watching these first. People who enjoy films which are dialogue heavy, feature a lot of well-performed improvisation and those who absolutely love celebrity impressions (both great and average) are sure to enjoy this fun and exceptionally made series, including this new, and somewhat improved, installment.