This new film, which features six meals in six Italian towns, contains many of the same elements as the previous feature: the two friends do their dueling Michael Caine impressions, Coogan mocks Brydon for reading poetry in other people’s voices, and both men worry about aging, their careers, and family relationships. However, this time around, much of it seems forced.
The guys’ witty banter is, as before, a game of one-upmanship that for some viewers will quickly grow tedious. A riff on the inability to understand Christian Bale and Tom Hardy in the Batman film is amusing at first, but it goes on too long. Their running commentary on Alanis Morissette’s music is initially clever, albeit obvious. By the third time they discuss her, it’s just obvious.
The film may very well address how old friends act around each other, and there are some nice moments in which they remark on melancholia and middle age. But viewer’s patience may wear thin waiting for the bellylaughs. Instead there is a smattering of clever remarks, from a throwaway one-liner in an amphitheater to various jokes about local wines, to an extended discussion about Bond, James Bond, complete with impersonations.
Moreover, the Italian setting seems more designed to focus on the gorgeous landscape with less emphasis on the food, which, when it is briefly seen, looks delicious. This, too, is disappointing because one of the highlights of the first film—one element not repeated from the original—was the guys’ interaction with the waiters and snide comments on how the food was plated.
The Trip to Italy is mostly plotless, which allows viewers to enjoy the leisurely pace, taking in the food and the scenery, but this approach makes the episodes feel more like a series of hit or miss sketches. A visit to Pompeii seems constructed to move the dramatic action involving Rob’s emotions about Lucy (Rosie Fellner), a young woman he has an extramarital affair with during the trip, and Coogan’s efforts to work through a situation with his son Joe (Timothy Leach). How these storylines climax infuse the film with some not unwelcome poignancy.
However, not all of the film’s action is as well played. One subplot concerns Brydon auditioning for a role as a mob accountant in a new Michael Mann film. The jealous Coogan is asked to film his friend’s audition, but the scene never reaches its comic potential. Better is a Godfather-esque dream sequence that is like the guys’ impressions: spot on, but more knowing than funny. Coogan also does a Marlon Brando bit, complete with bread stuffed in his cheeks, which is pretty great. But The Trip to Italy needs more scenes like these to match the quality of the original. This sequel just seems warmed over.
The Trip to Italy opens in Philly area theaters today.
Author: Gary M. Kramer
Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer. He is the co-editor of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina. Volumes 1 and 2, and teaches seminars at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer.