It’s probably often true that the patrons being served a carefully planned, lovingly crafted meal at a gourmet restaurant don’t really deserve it, but that’s certainly the case with The Trip. In this feature-length version of the BBC series, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play exaggerated versions of themselves—British actors/comedians of slightly varying degrees of fame—who head to the north of England for a tour of fine restaurants in historic locales. Coogan has been commissioned to write an article about the experience, and has asked Brydon to come along when his girlfriend backs out at the last minute. Neither of them know much about food, though, so most of their dinners devolve into friendly arguments and endless celebrity impersonations, all while director Michael Winterbottom cuts away to mouth-watering insert shots of the exquisite dishes that will largely go unappreciated.
Coogan and Brydon are hilarious together; their Michael Caine impression-off has become the stuff of legend. Coogan is particularly willing to play the part of the pompous fool, even layering that persona with a mournful loneliness. Frustrated by unfulfilled career ambitions, unsatiated by trysts with various hotel workers, Coogan’s sad-clown face has never been droopier. The most revealing moment may be a cemetery conversation in which he ad-libs the eulogy he hopes to give one day at Brydon’s funeral. When Brydon wants a turn to eulogize Coogan, the latter just stomps away, unwilling to be one-upped comedically or forced to face the specter of his own mortality.
Winterbottom lets the improvised, antagonistic camaraderie rule the day, but he also pauses to offer breathtakingly gorgeous shots of the misty lakes and rolling fields through which these two are traveling. (One of them remarks that it looks like a Turner painting, and that’s exactly the right comparison.) And so The Trip is at once a foodie movie and a travelogue that happens to be hosted by two amusing buffoons. In other words, it’s a delight in every way.