Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Trip to Italy

Director Michael Winterbottom made my top-ten list in 2011 with "The Trip," and with the hilarious and completely delightful "The Trip to Italy," he's sure to do so again.

Even better than the first installment, this new film is a marvel of impersonation and improvisation by co-stars Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan (the latter best known here for "Philomena"). As before, Rob's been asked to motor through a beautiful European landscape (this time, the Italian seaside) and review half a dozen fine-dining restaurants, and he's invited Steve to accompany him. For Angelenos who love Italy (and are there any other kind?), the visuals alone merit the price of admission. 

The true joy, though, lies in the guys' bickering, their battling impressions of everyone from Caine to Hoffman to Pacino to Roger Moore, and the all-synapses-firing mental one-upmanship that rides the slenderest of tendrils from one subject to the next. There's also just enough substance (readings from Byron and Shelley, a little bit of trouble at home for each) to keep it from cloying. Don't come to this movie to sit back and look at pretty pictures with your brain turned off. Buckle up and hold on tight. I didn't stop laughing the entire time, and at one point I caught myself literally slapping my knees. Here's hoping Winterbottom, Coogan and Brydon (perhaps the real genius) reconvene every few years.

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