Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have been on the road too long. The Trip to Greece is the fourth, and presumably last, of Michael Winterbottom’s pretend documentaries taking these two talented impressionists on a visually stunning tour of fabulous restaurants and locales.
Their odyssey began in 2010 with The Trip, a TV mini-series that became such a hit in Britain that it was turned into a feature-length film and marketed worldwide. Coogan and Brydon played off their own personas with comedy as well as jabs.
We’ve seen enough of these films to anticipate the beats of the plot that previously delighted us. The gorgeous scenery and the sumptuous meals served perfectly by waiters and waitresses right out of central casting are enough to keep your eyes on the screen. But there’s not enough beneath the fluff to make this memorable. And, in this episode, we don’t learn enough or see enough of picturesque Greece.
Coogan comes across as the pretentious artiste who lords his stardom and fame over his buddy. Coogan has an eye for women and manages a liaison “side-trip” here and there. Brydon, by contrast is a dedicated family man who stays in touch with his wife and tries to FaceTime with his distracted young daughter. Brydon’s always “on” comedy patter was exhausting and somewhat annoying in this episode. Coogan is more serious. What began as dazzling fast-paced comedy patter in Northern England, Italy and Spain seems more like white noise in Greece.
Each of these trips have included an undercurrent of personal struggle and sadness for these men. In The Trip to Greece, Brydon hides his loneliness missing his family with his never-ending quips and impressions. Coogan keeps getting calls from his son updating him on the state of his father’s failing health. Though he suggests coming back to England, it’s shown as a half-hearted offer that gets tucked away with his phone. Coogan’s ability to compartmentalize his feelings and get back to the food and fun comes off as inauthentic and simply part of the movie’s formula. Except when they start singing Gregorian chants as they float down a river in a boat through a cave.
Since the locale is Greek, Coogan chooses to make multiple comparisons between his lifetime journey and Odysseus and his long, painful journey to return home. He also continues his banter putting Brydon down as a somewhat second rate actor/entertainer compared with Coogan’s many successes. And he won’t even let his buddy drive. At some point we wish Brydon would just tell him to shut up.
Viewers who loved these two in the first three episodes will eat this up. Besides all the expected stops along the way of this not-all-that-buddy-trip, there’s the centerpiece feature of their dueling impressions. In this episode Coogan and Brydon tee up their best Dustin Hoffman voices. There’s also Anthony Hopkins and even Godzilla thrown in for good measure. Coogan even takes the opportunity to bring back his well received Stan Laurel performance from Stan and Ollie and Brydon does his best channeling Tom Hardy with his mumbling, unintelligible accents.
There’s more than enough visual pleasure in The Trip to Greece whether it’s the landscape, the sea, the cuisine or especially the beautiful young women Coogan, and to a lesser extent, Brydon, lust after. Instead of an exhilarating journey in an exotic location this becomes a slog. A trip to your local Greek coffee shop might be just as enjoyable.
IFC Films 1 Hour 43 Minutes Not Rated Apple TV, VUDU
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