By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin June 10, 2011 at 4:30AM
A bit of background: I became a Steve Coogan fan when I saw his freewheeling performance in Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002), unaware that he made his name in the UK with a very funny character he created—named Alan Partridge—for a comedy TV show.
I wasn’t aware of Rob Brydon until I saw Winterbottom’s 2005 movie Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, in which he and Coogan carry on a continual game of one-upmanship, mostly about their careers. I didn’t need a primer to figure out that this was based, to some degree, on their real-life relationship, and enjoyed their barbed banter.
Now Coogan and Brydon have teamed up again, under Winterbottom’s direction, for an unusual and highly amusing road movie (adapted from a British TV miniseries) called The Trip. The premise is that Coogan has been asked to—
—write a restaurant column, but his plans for a sojourn through the North of England are thrown asunder when his girlfriend decides that she needs a break from the relationship and travels to America. That’s when Coogan reluctantly invites Brydon to be his traveling companion as they tour the country and visit some of its most prestigious restaurants.
The resulting film consists of sumptuous meals, a bit of travelogue, and constant conversation, with the friendly rivals trying to outdo each other’s mimicry (wait till you hear the dueling Michael Caines) and occasionally comparing notes on their lives (Coogan is a divorced dad, Brydon a happily married new father) and careers. It’s hilarious, bittersweet, and thoughtful. How much of it is true I cannot say, though I reckon it’s an exaggeration of reality if not a complete fabrication.
I went into the film with a residual fondness for its two stars, who improvised most of their dialogue, so I can’t predict how someone who’s never been exposed to them will respond. But if you’re at all an Anglophile, or have a taste for show business chatter, I think you’re on the right track.
Just one word of warning: don’t go hungry. The meals look absolutely incredible.