Film review: ‘THE TRIP TO GREECE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’
The Trip to Greece is the fourth and purportedly last instalment in director Michael Winterbottom’s serio-comic travelogues starring Steve Coogan (best known as fictitious, cringe-inducing TV host Alan Partridge) and comic actor and quiz show host Rob Brydon. While adopting a slightly different approach to the three previous films, Trip to Greece won’t disappoint the series’ devotees.
As fans of the series will know, Coogan and Brydon play slightly fictionalised versions of themselves who, at the behest of the Observer newspaper, tour scenic locations – at first England’s Lake District, then Italy, then Spain and now Greece – eating magnificent food, imbibing wondrous scenery and constantly sniping at and trying to one-up each other with career boasts and most famously, celebrity impersonations. Each film also sees their journey built around a literary theme as they recite the works and recall the lives of authors and poets who lived in the various locations. It was Coleridge in the Lake District, Byron and Shelley in Italy, Cervantes in Spain and now in Greece it’s Homer as they roughly trace his tale The Odyssey which describes Odysseus’ return to Ithaca 10 years after fighting the Trojan War. As with the previous films, this one is actually a compressed version of a six-part TV series.
To varying degrees of success, the Trip films have also included a more serious, at times melancholic element as the two, particularly Steve, confront mid-life crises, stalling careers, relationship issues and mortality. In Greece that serious side is more evident as the drama constantly presses in on the comic by-play. A tragedy, that relates to Odysseus’ story pervades the film giving the movie greater poignancy than any others in the series. Not all of Winterbottom’s attempts at drama work, though, an unexpected diversion to a refugee camp seems tacked on.
Fans should not be put off by the more serious tone as there are plenty of funny moments and thankfully, a constant stream of impersonations. Some of the old favourites don’t feature (at least in the movie version) but importantly Rob Brydon gives us some Ronnie Corbett, Mick Jagger and lashings of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins, their resonant tones sounding terrific reciting Homer’s verse and even sections of the Lonely Planet guide. Not all of the largely improvised banter is side-splitting but there are hilarious moments including one personal highlight in which something Steve does inspires a Benny Hill impersonation from Rob.
Steve and Rob play their alternate dimension selves pretty much the same as in the previous films with Rob amiable, gently needling and largely devoid of a filter while Steve is again a pedantic, self-important, know-it-all seemingly on the verge of an anger tantrum but importantly, never entirely objectionable. Claire Keelan as Steve’s assistant and Marta Barrio as the newspaper’s photographer appear once again vainly attempting to introduce some sense and maturity into Steve and Rob’s lives.
Even those who don’t care for Steve and Rob’s comic showboating and snarky banter can still sit back and revel in the stunning locations captured by cinematographer James Clarke. These include Troy and Lesbos (which inspires a few 70’s-era gags), Delphi, Athens and the island of Hydra, which was famously Leonard Cohen’s home in the 60’s. As well as the scenery, the food, the personal drama and the comic hijinks, this film, like the others, make superb use of music, particularly Michael Nyman’s sumptuous scores.
For those who have loved the previous films, this movie will, despite a slightly darker tone, deliver the indulgent pleasures they’ve enjoyed over the series’ 10 years.
Nick’s rating: ****
Genre: Comedy/ drama.
Director(s): Michael Winterbottom.
Release date: 14th May 2020.
Running time: 110 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show