“Second-album syndrome” is how costar Steve Coogan, in a meta moment of self-critique, describes his impending food tour with also-slightly-fictionalized Rob Brydon in director Michael Winterbottom’s sequel to 2010’s The Trip (which existed as both a film and a BBC series). This time, the duo is headed to Italy’s glorious Amalfi Coast and several ridiculously droolworthy plates of pasta. But if the new film is, indeed, an obvious follow-up to an essential comedy of middle-age desperation, it’s not quite as lackluster as, say, the Stone Roses’ Second Coming. All the expected notes are hit, and if the company has shoehorned in a bit of filler, there’s still another side of impressive, transitional maturity.
First, the hits: Coogan and Brydon’s dueling Michael Caine impressions are back, and they’re almost too much of a good thing, with riffs extending to the whole central cast of The Dark Knight Rises (including a nervous assistant to Christopher Nolan). Later on, there’s another exchange that’s even more dizzying, Brydon’s shouty Al Pacino mingling with Coogan’s adenoidal Woody Allen in a mash-up of the Godfather movies and Annie Hall. Outside of their competitive bubble, the sun-dappled locations—from Pompeii and Campania to Capri’s sexy Casa Malaparte (legendarily used in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt)—glow with easy luxury, making the endless sparring especially clueless. On a yacht, they sail via hot air.
The real richness of the movie, though, arrives well in, as the improvised script gets around to deeper anxieties of aging and avoidance. Brydon, this time, finds himself blown off by his too-busy wife and falls into the arms of a comely crew member (Rosie Fellner), guiltily. A through-line of commentary about expat English poets draws Coogan into a self-lacerating funk over a stalled TV show; he shifts gears to reconnect with his teenage son.
As is becoming clear, the Trip movies bring their share of luscious, plated delights, but their title refers to something longer-term and uncertain. We know the recipe now—Winterbottom never departs from it, giving this installment slightly less kick—but the guys have curious appetites they barely understand.
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