I love Spain and love these guys — Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and director Michael Winterbottom.
If anyone’s going to get a kick out of two master mimics and comic improvisers eating, driving, bickering and trying out their Roger Moore impressions all over Spain it’s going to be me.
But with “The Trip to Spain,” what started as a lark (“The Trip”) and progressed into a franchise (“The Trip to Italy”) now feels like, “Are you going to squander your years in film on this?”
Winterbottom, a once-promising director with flair and edge (“The Trip to Sarejevo,” “24 Hour Party People,” “The Claim”) doesn’t seem to be able to get much else in front of the cameras these days.
Brydon never quite broke through in Hollywood. And Coogan, whatever pleasure he takes in playing a less successful version of himself in these movies (He drops “Philomena” and “Oscar nominations” into every conversation, in desperation.) surely doesn’t need an all-expense-paid trip to another corner of Europe when the clock is ticking on his own marketability as a funnyman/leading man.
All that said, “The Trip to Spain” is on a hilarity par with the other “Trip” pictures. The impersonation contests are testy, funny and interrupt the tranquility of the finest restaurants in España. Dueling Caines, dueling Sean Connerys and Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger AS Michael Caine, “The Stones do SHAKESPEARE!” This is comic gold!
The “characters” are set. Brydon is the British TV star who peaked decades ago, but here has everything Coogan does not; wife, family, and just enough notoriety to be Coogan’s sidekick and comic foil (and conscience).
As the Brits say, he’s just here to “take the piss” out of Coogan.
And there’s Coogan, after the glory of “Philomena,” losing his agent, told his latest script needs a rewrite by “an up-and-comer.”
“But I HAVE come! I have arrived!”
So they’re consigned to another travel story, dressing up like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, two insecure funnymen recalling their glory days (Alan Partridge, Brydon’s “Small Man in a Box”), pushing 50 and name-dropping and falling into Brando (He was in “1492”) trapped in Monty Python’s “Spanish Inquisition” sketch.
“You’re not ENUNCIATING, Nuncio!”
Coogan struggles with his latest ill-fated romance (with a married woman) and ponders his missed chance to play “Hamlet.” He WAS in “Hamlet 2,” remember.
“Olivier played him when he was 44.”
“Olivier was a better actor than you.”
So even though these movies are almost wholly — if not quite totally — useless as travelogues — no restaurants are identified, no hotels or paradors, and you often have to concentrate just to figure out which city they’re in (I know Spain and I found it pretty disorienting.)…
Even though it can feel repetitious, with a running time not justified by the lack of novelty in the script…
And even if the most promising direction to take it is in the tacked-on finale, “The Trip to Spain” is still worth it for that stamp on your passport and the giggles these two fussing, mismatched friends generate — two cynics abroad, making each other miserable and us amused.
MPAA Rating: unrated, mild language
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Marta Barrio
Credits:Directed by Michael Winterbottom, script by Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon . An IFC release.