Directed by Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise their slightly exaggerated roles as themselves.
The third installment of The Trip series, which started as a TV show in 2010, Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's The Trip to Spain delivers yet another delightful, charming road movie.
Coogan and Brydon again reprise their slightly exaggerated (still fictional) roles as themselves, on another assignment given by The Observer (Brydon again, serving as a food critic) and The New York Times (Coogan, travel essayist), this time to Spain and engorge themselves on great food and appreciate local culture in spectacular scenery of many different Spanish regions while wrestling with aging, self-worth and fragile masculinity.
Calling The Trip to Spain anything other than an overly indulgent project would be an understatement: the endless in-jokes, impersonations and food porn aplenty. But who cares? As a fan of the series and Coogan and Brydon's sardonic banter, Spain is by far the funniest of the three.
In Cervantes-esque whimsy, Coogan, the cocky narcissist of the two, takes on the Don Quixote role to good-natured family man Brydon's Sancho Panza, which ties nicely in with the theme of Lost in La Mancha, later in the movie.
They start in England, taking a ferry to their first destination, Getaria, a picturesque fishing village in the Basque region. After dining on some grilled seafood and some hilarious Mick Jagger impersonations, they drive to inland region of Rioja. There, the arid desert vistas of inner Spain is spectacular and the medieval town built on the ledge of the barren mountains is a site to behold.
Coogan is seen flirting with women everywhere he goes, and Brydon is seen skyping with his wife and their young kids every night. It's their established rapport through the years, which makes them such a great team. Their priorities are slightly changed since the last time: Coogan's success as a writer/actor boosted his ever growing self-importance. But he still struggles to be recognized as a serious artist. Last seen having an extra marital fling with a tour guide, Brydon is settled in domestic bliss. His only job now is ribbing Coogan whenever he deems necessary to do so.
Their impersonations of course, gets the most laughs- Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Anthony Hopkins, Marlon Brando, John Hurt by way of Caligula in I Claudius and Quentin Crisp (in Naked Civil Servant).
Talking about Moorish influence in Spain, they start impersonating Roger Moore to impress their female companion. A plate of grilled scallops develops into a stand off between Moore’s Bond and Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga. Brydon's insistence in Moore-ing everything, which goes on forever, should in theory outlive its welcome in a minute, but because its Coogan and Brydon, it's consistently funny all the way through.
And of course, their version of Michael Fucking Caine. They pull out "SHE WAS ONLY SIXTEEN YEARS OLD!" in the film's most inappropriate moment and I couldn't stop laughing.
My minor quibble is that perhaps because the film is basically a shortened version of the 6 part TV series (like the other two films were) into an hour and a half movie, I find the ending quite muddled and unsatisfying.
On paper, two middle aged white male British comedians going through beautiful places, eating delectable cuisine, always cracking silly jokes and impersonating celebrities, don't sound all that attractive. But because it's Coogan and Brydon, who are genuinely funny and charming, makes The Trip to Spain one of the funniest movies I've seen in years.
The Trip to Spain opens in select U.S. theaters on Friday, August 11.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com