“The Trip” started off as a BBC miniseries: a six-episode, improvisational chronicle of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing themselves) touring the restaurants of the British countryside. It has been cut down by more than a third for US theaters, and yet “The Trip” may work better as a miniseries, broken up into half-hour installments, than as a feature-length film.
A lot of this is because of the simple nature of the film and its humor. Mostly it’s Coogan and Brydon, two British comedic actors, riffing on each other. Much of this humor is based around doing imitations of other celebrities, and while this material is usually funny, there are only so many times Coogan can do a middling Michael Caine impersonation. The two are obviously having a good time, and their relationship crackles with real chemistry and an easy rapport. Even so, compressed into a single 107-minute movie, their scenes can get repetitive and quickly grow tiring.
Coogan previously worked with director Michael Winterbottom on “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” which had an equally ramshackle narrative. Winterbottom brings a strong eye for visuals to the table here, coaxing gorgeous landscapes out of the British countryside and making the various foods Coogan and Brydon dine on look incredibly appealing.
Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom also manage to slip a few moments of legitimate dramatic heft into the film, most of them dealing with Coogan struggling with his mortality or the limitations of his acting talent. Sometimes these moments work, sometimes they fall flat. Yet again, there are only so many times you can hear Coogan boast about all the flashy dramatic roles he could play given the chance and feel sympathetic for him. More successful are the scenes detailing his flailing relationship with soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley), a series of phone conversations filled with unspoken words and hesitant silences.
Overall, “The Trip” is an extremely funny film, overflowing with hilarious one-liners coming from Coogan and Brydon’s constant comedic dueling. Nonetheless, its story isn’t quite enough to make the film worth its 107-minute runtime, and it’s easy to see the film would work better in its original format.