Coogan and Brydon trip over themselves
Returning for a third helping that's more Quixote than quixotic, The Trip to Spain just about manages to stay on the right side of not being irritating.
Once again pulled together from the six-part TV UK series, which aired on satellite rather than free-to-air broadcasting, and spun off from the first Trip (to Italy) which aired in 2010, the film follows exaggerated versions of Steve and Rob as they travel around Spain, taking in restaurants and trying to one-up each other along the way.
This time, with Steve Coogan hitting 50 and Rob Brydon struggling with two young kids, there's very much a feeling of desperation in the air as the duo head round the sumptuously-shot Spanish countryside. With Winterbottom's sweeping scenic vistas providing the eye-watering backdrop, it's down to the relationship between the two to provide the meat in this meal - and they certainly don't disappoint.
There's a definite feeling of ennui between the pair, given their collective point in their lives.
Coogan is teetering on irrelevance in many ways, looking to still capitalise on the Oscar success of Philomena by injecting it into every conversation much to Brydon's annoyance; and Brydon's continual pushing of his impressions as every point borders on irritating in the extreme, a reminder that not all travelling partners are welcome.
With Don Quixote and Sancho Panza figuring into proceedings, there's a feeling that you're never quite sure why these two are friends anymore, and both play their roles well, with Coogan's irritability and frustrations being perhaps the saddest of the two. Struggling with past feelings, current career worries and future loneliness, Coogan's exasperation is palpable, and while there are moments that you feel he's being unnecessarily dismissive to Brydon, there's the fact this examination of a close friendship cuts to the quick where it needs to.
Granted, there's the obligatory Michael Caine moments, but it's the scenes where the duo are trying to out-impersonate Mick Jagger and the competitiveness between them over Roger Moore when they're joined by two women for a meal that speak the loudest to what Winterbottom's showcasing here.
It may be a Tourette's of impressions at times but what it demonstrates is that niggling pushing and pulling between friends as well as showcasing of insecurities that come later in life to some. Less men behaving badly, more men behaving sadly, the midlife existential crisis has never been so scathing and fascinating to view.
Shorn of the excesses and stultifying rhythms of the TV version, the tighter film, with its more caustic edges and very funny moments proves that it's still a trip worth taking - just.
The Trip to Spain
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Running time: 111 minutes
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