I don’t know if “The Trip to Greece” is intended to be the final installment in the ongoing adventures of British comic actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, but an air of finality hangs over their journey through beautiful landscapes and gourmet restaurants, even as they crack each other up. Retracing the steps of Odysseus through Greece, the pair still delivers devastatingly accurate impressions and hilarious riffs, but old age, breakups, professional disappointments and even the spectre of death render the pleasures of “The Trip to Greece” somewhat muted.
It has been 10 years since the original “The Trip” came out, and, like everyone else, Brydon and Coogan are older, wiser and sadder than when they began on their journey. The format remains the same; the film is pretty much just the smart and funny pair chatting with each other with some vague, organizing principle tying it together, like writing a newspaper article or, in this case, the Odysseus concept.
While trying to enjoy the moment, home literally calls to them. Coogan is on the phone with his son constantly, getting updates on his gravely ill father, but he keeps Brydon in the dark about what’s going on. Coogan is divorced, but Brydon is still devoted to his own wife and, as the trip wears on, she joins them. Coogan, meanwhile, spends time with an attractive photographer.
At a photoshoot set in the ruins of an amphitheater that happens to be the birthplace of drama, the friends debate the nature of their respective careers. Coogan is focused on his recent dramatic work portraying Stan Laurel, while Brydon must admit a foray away from comedy might not ever happen for him, as they fight over who will hold the tragedy mask prop the photographer brought them.
The discussion of Laurel and Hardy leads them to substitute Tom Hardy for Oliver Hardy in a hilarious exchange. If that joke doesn’t sound funny to you, you might need a film a bit more energetic. This film delivers more along the lines of wry chuckles, rather than laughs out loud. Dueling Mick Jagger impressions over grilled oysters in a stunning restaurant on a seaside cliff are amusing, pleasant and interesting, but might not qualify as a must-watch for everyone.
On the other hand, if you miss traveling and eating in restaurants, “The Trip to Greece” has plenty of eye candy to feast upon. There are boat trips on azure seas, succulent lamb chops, enviable hotel balconies and diving off of rocks. There is also an extended sequence with the two comedians trading and refining their Dustin Hoffman impressions that is probably the closest they come to their all-time greatest achievement: the notorious Michael Caine impressions from their original film.
These films are condensed from the BBC series, and the episodic nature certainly remains. Despite the ostensible concept of recreating Odysseus’ steps, this is basically a random series of delicious meals shared by two funny guys. Somehow, the formula no longer thrilled me. As fabulous as the food and the views are, no one ever much comments on them; the capacity to delight in these things seems diminished.
There was an element of depth this time, but that didn’t really connect either. As Brydon and Coogan bemoan their failure to translate their comedic careers into something more serious, so too does “The Trip to Greece” fail to achieve more than a quiet, contemplative mood. As talented and watchable as these fellows are, they may have taken their trip as far as it can go. There are certainly worse ways to pass the time than viewing “The Trip to Greece,” but it was not terribly memorable. Pleasant and diverting, but far from the trip of a lifetime, maybe these two actors are ready for a project with a script and a plot, because they are terrific, but they have started to run out of road.
“The Trip to Greece” is now available to stream.
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