There was slight trepidation upon hearing of The Trip to Spain, the third instalment of the ‘Trip’ films (based on the BBC television series) in which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play semi-fictionalised versions of themselves.
The prospect of Spanish food and locations adorning the screen was naturally tantalising, yet as with any sequel, there were concerns about how well the new material would balance the need for originality and freshness with a desire to retain familiar, enjoyable elements. Fans can rest assured that director Michael Winterbottom mostly succeeds in satisfying those demands, though it’s an imperfect juggling act at times.
Coogan and Brydon are now officially middle-aged, a stage of life they attempt to convince themselves as being the ‘sweet spot’. The pair muse on this when they’re not exchanging titbits of Spanish history or needling one another on their careers. And, of course, there are the impersonations. There’s not much new here in terms of repertoire (Connery, Moore, Pacino, Brando, Caine all back again), with the addition of Jagger and Bowie not offering too much Moor/Moore (a pun milked to the nth by Brydon).
There’s still plenty of laughs to be had, but at times the shtick seems to wear as thin as Brydon’s barely concealed bald patch. Perhaps that’s the point. It’s just at these moments the few fragments of plot interspersing the improv resurface to provide some necessary substance to the tasty, yet otherwise trifling morsels of narrative. These involve Coogan’s relationships — one with a former girlfriend (now married), and the other with his adult son; and his ever so slightly waning career (despite those Oscar nominations).
The focus toward the film’s end is more singularly on Coogan who spends the last few days of the journey alone and in what is a curious final scene, abruptly pondering his mortality.
Rated M. The Trip to Spain is in cinemas now