- The Trip to Greece
- Directed by Michael Winterbottom
- Starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
- Classification PG; 110 minutes
Watching The Trip to Greece was not meant to be a cruel exercise, I’m certain. The fourth instalment in director Michael Winterbottom’s largely improvised gastronomic travelogue series – in which British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, yukking it up as they enjoy some of Europe’s best restaurants – would be fine enough to take in if the world were normal. But having to watch Coogan and Brydon swap Marlon Brando impersonations while enjoying morel-accented mussels against the background of a gorgeous and sparkling Greece, with the viewer not knowing when anyone might be able to do the same, seems ... I’m not sure if aggravating quite cuts it. Watching it all unfold in my sweatpants while shoving frozen pizza into my gullet, I found it deeply, unshakably depressing.
If you can somehow separate your current home-bound reality from The Trip to Greece’s window to a different, more beautiful – but still vastly privileged – world, then the film charms more or less as well as the gang’s previous three efforts. Like The Trip, The Trip to Italy and The Trip to Spain – each of which were designed for episodic U.K. television, later chopped down and bundled up into feature films – these projects are all about great food, gorgeous scenery and lively company. Miss one element – as 2017′s Spain-set edition did, with Coogan and Brydon more annoying than engaging – and the whole thing falls shoddy-soufflé flat.
In this latest edition, all the ingredients are in harmony with one another, if somewhat muted in flavour. Brydon and Coogan’s banter is lively and barbed, with especially nice pokes at Coogan’s up-and-down film career. The food looks as meticulously prepared as ever, with Winterbottom taking regular breaks from his stars’ dinner-table conversations to peek into various seaside kitchens. And the locations that the film’s production team have scouted out are bewitching. But perhaps because this odd little franchise is a decade old now – and maybe because Winterbottom was prescient in anyone’s inability to ever again make a movie with “Trip” in the title – there is a sense of deflated finality about the whole exercise. Instead of everyone giving one last spirited go at things, the Trip team seems content to lie back, enjoy the view and leisurely gorge themselves to death.
Winterbottom at least had the good sense to retroactively rewrite the bizarre and tone-deaf ending to The Trip to Spain – in which Coogan seemed to be abducted by jihadists – and double down here on the series’ most successful bit: celebrity impersonations. (In addition to credible Brandos, Coogan and Brydon trade solid Dustin Hoffman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Werner Herzog gags.) And anyone who manages to slip in so many BAFTA jokes at Coogan’s expense deserves some sort of award himself. But by this Trip’s end, the journey becomes a bit too much to stomach, whether you’re stuck at home or not.
The Trip to Greece is available digitally on-demand starting May 22
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