If you aren’t familiar with the “Trip” movies, they actually have an interesting origin. The brainchild of actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon along with filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, they began back in 2010 as an improvised six-episode BBC television series. The series was then edited into a well-received feature film. In the years following, the trio would successfully repeat their comedic TV-to-movie formula for trips to Italy and Spain.
The idea has Coogan and Brydon playing fictionalized and slightly exaggerated versions of themselves. Coogan is commissioned to venture out on a culinary road trip reviewing restaurants across various European locations. Everybody he invites to go along turns him down except Brydon. So the two set out on week-long journeys into history, culture and cuisine. But as before, the real draw is the steady diet of banter, drollery, and of course the wildly funny impersonations.
The fourth and final “Trip” series aired earlier this year in the U.K. and this Friday we get its film version “The Trip to Greece”. This time around the pithy, chattering Brits set out to retrace the steps of Odysseus in six days beginning with a brief stop in Turkey. From there it’s across Greece’s beautiful rolling hills and along its stunning sun-soaked coasts, making stops at Ancient Stagira, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Theatre of Epidaurus, the Caves of Diros, among other history-rich landmarks. Each day is wrapped up with a delectable gourmet meal at a five-star local restaurant.
While the film absolutely works as an exquisitely shot travelogue, it’s the easygoing and often hilarious conversations that sets these films apart. Coogan and Brydon have a relaxed, free-wheeling chemistry that shows itself in their off-the-cuff chats about history, mythology, and philosophy. Their good-natured riffing and playful competitiveness lead to some really funny exchanges. And then you have the slew of impersonations from Marlon Brando to Sean Connery (their “Stan Laurel and Tom Hardy” bit may be my personal favorite).
But though coated in humor, some of their topics expose a thinly-veiled middle-age melancholy. Certain discussions reveal deeper and more personal reflections – ponderings about life and death, happiness and contentment. It really comes to light in the final act where Winterbottom injects his film with a heavy dose of humanity that quite frankly caught me off guard. It’s culminates in a strong ending which taps into some important but often less recognized themes that have subtly ran throughout the entire series.
“The Trip to Greece” is a fitting and thoroughly satisfying way to end a surprisingly enduring series. It’s a joy to look at whether admiring the gorgeous seas and countryside or enviously drooling over the exquisite dishes. And it’s all threaded together by Coogan and Brydon’s terrific camaraderie. You could make the argument that this is more of the same just in a different country. You wouldn’t be wrong and that should excite fans of the previous movies. Interestingly, this may be the most mature of the four films, but it’s just as funny and entertaining even when the duo’s jokes are flying over my head.
VERDICT – 4 STARS