“I have drunken deep of joy, And I will taste no other wine tonight,” wrote Percy Bysshe Shelley. Ah, but how sweet it is to experience both, drinking in the pleasures of frivolous banter while also admiring the drinks and cuisine of choice.
“The Trip to Italy” is drunk on such vices, a simple, palatable film that improves on the original “The Trip” without striving for much more. The carefree structure is the same, the food porn is just as succulent, the dialogue is just as snooty, sophisticated and silly, Steve Coogan is ever the droll sourpuss and the travelogue setting of Italy over the England countryside is even more beautiful.
The first “Trip” pleased many with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s playful yet eloquent and polished back and forth of impressions ranging from Michael Caine to Al Pacino to Woody Allen. Those who thought the Michael Caine bit from the original was “The Trip’s” high point and enough reason to revisit it on YouTube time and again will be pleased to know his voice has made a reappearance to warrant an admission price yet again. This time Caine is flanked by muffled, inscrutable impressions of Christian Bale and Tom Hardy from “The Dark Knight Rises,” two intense actors you’d never mention to their face you can’t understand a word they’re saying.
Coogan and Brydon riff on this material like the masters they are, capable of simply going on a roll once Director Michael Winterbottom pulls his camera back, holds in a great wide shot and watches them kill it. They start with an observation that one day you’ll be naked on a slab being embalmed and turn it into a dark routine about Coogan being taunted by a Philippine nurse’s breasts “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” style.
Everything about “The Trip to Italy” involves a hint of melancholy that goes a long way. They poke fun at Morrissey and at being remembered for having six BAFTAs, but they do so in the haze of being gone 200 years from now or with the bodies at Pompeii as a backdrop. Brydon quotes Byron and Shelley almost as freely as he breaks into Pacino impressions, and the whole film is bathed in lush, beautiful sunsets.
This time around the journey and the James Bond impressions feel deeper on a more practical level too, without disrupting the plotless form of the original. Brydon is up for a dramatic part in a Michael Mann film, Coogan is grappling with being away from his son, and the two together aren’t nearly at each other’s throats as they were the first time through.
In one hilarious stretch of impressions, Brydon says that Humphrey Bogart talked like he knew something else no one did and that Gore Vidal spoke as if he had figured out the answers to life. “The Trip to Italy” is as light and perhaps as insignificant as before, but it speaks like it has found the perfect slice of heaven.