In 2010, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon teamed with filmmaker Michael Winterbottom for The Trip, a BBC series that featured the two comedians largely improvising while playing fictionalized versions of themselves on a tour of restaurants in the UK. They re-teamed in 2014 for The Trip to Italy for more hilarity, and both series were later edited into films for release outside of the UK. This year sees the U.S. release of the second sequel, The Trip to Spain, which was again edited from the latest BBC series depicting the somewhat friendly competition between Coogan and Brydon’s fictional personas.
This time Coogan invites Brydon on a restaurant tour of Spain to promote “Medium Rare,” a (fictional) film that Coogan stars in as a chef — which was produced by Martin Scorsese, as Coogan likes to point out. As in the previous two movies, Coogan and Brydon gorge on delicious food and engage in a series of passive-aggressive one-upmanship as they battle with their opinions and competing hilarious spot-on impressions, including those of John Hurt, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, and, of course, James Bond characters and Michael Caine.
Like the previous films in the series, The Trip to Spain is also a reflection aging, particularly in the face of the fictional Coogan’s obvious vanity. In fact, the subplot of The Trip to Spain involves potentially major developments in the careers of both Coogan and Brydon which, in some aspects, are more interesting than the main narrative. In particular, Coogan’s frequency to bring up the fact that he was nominated for two Oscars for Philomena and not understanding why his latest script — which sounds suspiciously like a gender-swapped version of Philomena — isn’t lighting Hollywood on fire is a highlight of the film. Coogan not being able to see past his own pretension in not understanding why he isn’t a bigger star reflects one of Cogan’s finest performances.
At 1 hour 50 minutes, The Trip to Spain is very long for a comedy (though the BBC series versions of the series are considerably longer), particularly one in which the humor almost exclusively comes from the dialogue. If this isn’t your type of humor, you’ll want to check out early. But if you find wit and dueling Michael Caine impressions hilarious — as I do — there are plenty of laughs. On the other hand, there aren’t many surprises in this sequel, meaning the material does drag a bit, particularly when it seems like Coogan and Brydon are running through their “greatest hits.” Thankfully, there is a significant development late in the film that adds fresh atmosphere to its well-trodden path, but The Trip to Spain still has a few moments where the material feels like leftovers of leftovers.
While The Trip to Spain doesn’t disappoint, I’m not sure how much is left in this comedy tank. But that’s up for fans of this series to decide if they’re willing to keep following this duo on these trips. As for me, I’m happy to go on another round every few years.