The Trip to Italy” is the ultimate in staycation viewing. If you’d like to cruise around Italy with a couple of hilarious British guys and eat a lot, but tragically don’t have such a trip planned, this is the next best thing. A sequel to the simple yet successful 2010 film “The Trip,” this film once again pairs comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, rolling the cameras while they improvise conversations both funny and insightful, but mostly just funny.
They play themselves, famous comedians dispatched on an eating tour of Italy. Brydon is also working on a book that requires him to visit locations related to Byron and Shelley, and discussions about the poets run throughout. This also gives Brydon occasion to recite Shelley in his truly uncanny impression of Hugh Grant.
Impressions, as they did in the first film, take up a lot of the film’s space. This is not as hokey as it sounds. A sequence in which the guys pretend to be both Tom Hardy as Bane and Christian Bale as Batman starts off amusing and builds to hilarious, as they pretend to argue about whether or not they can be understood by the audience.
This is the kind of work that cannot be described adequately; the experience of watching it is utterly winning and fun, but to describe the elements of it doesn’t really capture it. If for some reason the stars don’t amuse you, just watch it for the scenery. If the scenery doesn’t interest you, watch it for the food. I was literally eating a Hot Pocket while I watched it, and it almost killed me.
And if none of those frivolous elements interest you, there is a very understated narrative thread running through, in which the aging men confront their children, their partners and their careers. Extramarital temptations float by, phone calls (from, or to?) home go unanswered.
Professional jealousy between the friends bubbles up when Steve Coogan has to record Rob Brydon’s audition for a Michael Mann film, while Brydon questions Coogan’s claims that he hangs out with Owen Wilson while in Los Angeles.
The heavier subjects that bounce between the Michael Caine and Anthony Hopkins impressions blend so seamlessly with the shallow antics that they are all the more effective because of this. The men don’t discuss their problems in depth; they barely acknowledge them. But even in the most sumptuous of Italian villas, insecurities loom and mortality beckons. When it does, the best defense this pair can offer is to answer it in a silly voice. For a blithe and bonny hour and a half, this is enough.