Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back for “The Trip To Greece,” the fourth in their series of improvised buddy comedies.
While some movie series run their courses after just a few chapters (e.g. “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight”), the “Trip” formula still holds up because there’s no real plot that holds the films together – it’s just one exotic locale after another with good food and two close friends joking around. If you like spending time with them, you’ll enjoy this voyage.
The simple structure director Michael Winterbottom came up with this time is that Steve is writing a travel-and-food magazine piece for which the duo will visit some of the places Odysseus travelled to in Homer’s “The Odyssey.” As Brydon points out, “That took ten years. We have six days. Ambitious!”
Along the way, they eat at five-star restaurants and banter, banter, banter. They don’t reprise their dueling Michael Caine impressions, but they each show off very good imitations of Mick Jagger and Dustin Hoffman, as well as a few others — including Coogan portraying an actor whose dialogue is badly dubbed.
It’s obvious that Coogan studied the history of “The Odyssey” so he could drop in factoids from it at regular intervals. Brydon, meanwhile, went into the project blissfully ignorant, allowing him to make more snarky remarks. When they visit one archeological site that’s nothing more than a pile of rocks, Brydon comments, “I’m glad we didn’t have to pay to see that. Legoland costs a fortune, but you get a lot for your money.” He’s also the one who insists on singing the theme song to the movie “Grease” as they motor along through the Greek countryside.
As longtime good friends do, Coogan and Brydon constantly rib and try to one-up each other. Coogan loves to lord over Brydon the fact that he’s won seven BAFTAs (the UK equivalent of the Oscars + Emmys) while his colleague has none. The two even get involved in a swimming competition that reminded me of Brydon’s 2018 movie, “Swimming With Men,” which I enjoyed quite a bit (my review is here). There’s also an encounter with one of Coogan’s co-stars in “Greed,” a very good movie that deserved more than the scant attention it received earlier this year (my review is here).
The comedy in “The Trip To Greece,” like its predecessors, runs the gamut from silly to sublime. Where else are you going to get two guys in a boat in a cave making a reference to the Swingle Singers, or one criticizing the other because his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression sounds too much like Werner Herzog?
Winterbottom and his stars say this is the last of their “Trip” movies. That’s a shame, because I’ve enjoyed spending several hundred minutes with them — especially at a time when Martha and I have had to cancel myriad trips we’d planned to faraway places beyond our mud room. I don’t think the “Trip” formula or comedy is wearing thin, so I would happily go along on another of their voyages in a few years.
But if it is their finale, they’ve gone out in fine style. I give “The Trip To Greece” a 9 out of 10.
The movie was supposed to open in theaters this weekend, but due to COVID-19, it’s gone straight to video-on-demand. I rented it for six bucks on Amazon Prime Video, but it’s on other streaming platforms, too.