By Tressa Eckerman, Senior Staff Writer
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two of the most effortlessly funny people working today and in their new film, “The Trip,” they prove why.
Originally a six-part TV series for BBC and edited into a feature length film by director Michael Winterbottm, “The Trip” follows Coogan and Brydon playing exaggerated versions of themselves as they travel through the English countryside eating at the finest restaurants and generally annoying each other. Coogan originally plans the trip for himself and his younger American girlfriend, but when she has to work he makes it clear that Brydon is his third or fourth choice as a travel companion.
“I’m with a short Welsh man who does impressions. It’s not fun,” Coogan deadpans to his agent early in the film. Real life friends, their chemistry is apparent. While Brydon plays the slightly annoying affable family man, Coogan tries desperately to play the straight man but you can see his façade cracking every so often as they bounce the largely improvised dialogue off of each other.
Throughout the film, they try to one-up each other, whether it be with dueling Michael Caine or Woody Allen impressions—which are two of the funniest scenes in the film—but their differences are painfully obvious. Brydon is a family man, more content to be at home with his wife and child, and at ease with his successful career while Coogan’s self-pity seems to be bottomless.
He complains about his already successful career and contemplates ways to make it even better, talks about loving his girlfriend but sleeps with nearly every woman he meets on the trip, and stumbles through a phone relationship with his son. What saves him is his genuine charm.
My only recommendation for watching this film is having a vague background of the show, or at least Coogan and Brydon’s brand of humor. The impressions and constant back and forth can be tiring for someone who hasn’t seen it. But for someone who has, there were a few times I actually found myself shaking with laughter.
Like during the scene where Coogan runs across stones in a pond only to get stuck halfway across and Brydon informs him that he was stuck in a metaphor, or the sing along sessions the two share in their car, or the one where Coogan seriously contemplates whether or not he’d trade his son’s appendix for an Oscar.
Amid the bickering and banter between Brydon and Coogan, there are moments of quiet levity. After Brydon asks Coogan if he’s tired of going out every night and chasing around girls, Coogan quips, “Everything is exhausting after 40.” For all its bitter comedy, there is a considerable amount of melancholy in the film.
These are two men who’ve found themselves in their mid-forties, one content with being content the other content with being confused. “The Trip” might just be the funniest, most genuine film of the year.