The Trip to Spain is the third in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s comedy/ dramas in which they play slightly altered versions of themselves as they journey through scenic countryside reviewing up-market eateries. This time they’re imbibing the cuisine, landscape and culture of Spain as they drive from to Santander down to Malaga.
Once again directed by Michael Winterbottom, this film follows the series formula of travelogue, food odyssey, comical exploration of middle-aged angst and Steve and Rob bickering and trying to one up each other with career highlights and celebrity impersonations. The fact that it differs little from previous instalments is just fine.
As a travelogue this film is as visually intoxicating as the previous saunters through Italy and England’s Lake District with sumptuous cinematography from relative newcomer James Clarke capturing some stunning landscapes.
It’s also as funny as the previous films with the pair perfectly capturing the immaturity, competitiveness and neuroses of middle-aged men who desperately fear that their best days are behind them. They also treat us to some superb impersonations with established favourites like Roger Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Sean Connery as well as very amusing parodies of Mick Jagger, Marlin Brando, David Bowie and John Hurt among others.
Winterbottom includes a dash of melancholic personal drama which to some extent continues a narrative arc from the first two films in which both characters fret over work opportunities and relationships. Here, Steve’s career is looking a little shaky despite the success of the film Philomena, something about which he constantly reminds Rob. Given that the primary appeal of these films is watching two gloriously narcissistic overgrown teenagers sniping at each other, these more serious moments are the least effective elements in these films. This also includes a strange jarring scene toward the end that takes us to another country in an apparent attempt at socio-political commentary.
As in the previous instalments, Winterbottom uses famous writers as muses for their journey. In the first Trip it was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, In The Trip to Italy it was Byron and here its Cervantes. While the literary connections are not explored in great detail they at least add another interesting cultural layer to the story.
This film will not convert those who bristled at the first two Trip movies but for fans of the series, this is another wonderful foray into a foreign land as well as the comedy of hubris and human frailty.
Nick’s rating: ****
Genre: Comedy/ drama
Director(s): Michael Winterbottom.
Release date: 10th Aug 2017.
Running time: 108 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