The Trip to Spain, the previous (and third) installment in the Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon foodie/travelogue/comedians-in-midlife-crisis series, ended on a provocative, surprisingly geopolitical note, one that suggested a possible new direction for these movies. The Trip to Greece, which finds Coogan and Brydon once again playing exaggerated versions of themselves for director Michael Winterbottom, essentially makes a U-turn, barely acknowledging Spain’s conclusion. Consider it comfort food.
That will be fine for Trip aficionados, who never tire of the way Coogan’s pomposity—this time he intends to follow in the steps of Odysseus, hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey—is routinely deflated by his own insecurities, as well as by Brydon’s tweaking. (When Coogan yammers on about ancient Greece, Brydon begins singing “Grease.”) The silliness is as sharp and improvisational as ever, as are the impressions. Coogan even adds a bit of physical impressionism at one point, delivering a spot-on mimicking of “Godzilla animation.”
Maybe it’s the improvisational quality to such moments that allow them to still seem fresh. Not so for what has been one of the series’ other hallmarks: weaving in an undercurrent of mournfulness, specifically about loneliness and mortality. A subplot involving mobile-phone updates on the failing health of Coogan’s father back in England feels forced, especially when punctuated with black-and-white dream sequences that meld his father’s situation with images drawn from Homer’s poetry. Four films in the laughs are plentiful, but there’s also more than a dash of formula.