Thursday, August 24, 2017

Inspired impressions in (not of) Spain

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon traveled this route before, but in The Trip to Spain the combination of Coogan and Brydon still clicks. After The Trip (2011) and The Trip to Italy (2014), The Trip to Spain makes us wonder if these two don't plan to visit every country in Europe. To tell the truth, I don't mind if they do. Both Coogan and Brydon play themselves -- or at least versions of themselves. They travel to Spain, enjoy stunning vistas, eat disgustingly well and entertain us with a variety of impressions -- from Michael Caine to Sean Connery to Mick Jagger to Woody Allen. We've seen some of these impressions before, but it doesn't really matter because there's an unsettled quality to the relationship between the two men that makes their byplay feel fresh. Coogan and Brydon can be competitive and wry and Coogan can't always suppress his annoyance with his traveling companion. The reason for the trip: Steve plans to write a book about his Spanish travels; Rob supposedly is reviewing restaurants. Coogan and Brydon's dueling Roger Moore impressions have a pun-based twist, playing on the mistaken notion that Moore was a Moor. Coogan also worries about his career, an uninitiated change of agents, as well as alarming calls from his son and from a woman he's seeing in New York. The complication: She's married. Director Michael Winterbottom infuses the movie with a sad undertone involving the fact that the divorced Coogan -- as opposed to the married Brydon -- seems destined for perpetual unhappiness. It's arguable that this journey goes on too long. Still, I haven't tried of watching Coogan and Brydon do their dueling impressions act, which doesn't entirely hide traces of bitterness and, of course, the kind of self-absorption that keeps two men focused on each another, often at the expense of the mind-broadening pleasures of travel.

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