Monday, October 03, 2016

Road Rage

For years, I'd been hearing (quite occasionally) about a British movie called The Trip. It edged a little more into my view after I saw one of its stars, Steve Coogan, in the wonderful film Philomena.

The Trip is a movie assembled from pieces of a six-episode TV series of the same name. Comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of themselves, stuck together on a tour through northern England to review fine restaurants. Over amazing meals, they harangue each other with impressions, observational humor, and droll insults.

...and that's all there is to it. There's the barest underpinning of a plot here, involving Coogan's trial separation from a girlfriend and a career-changing job offer he's weighing, but these elements don't manifest frequently enough to become compelling. Really, it's all just window dressing to facilitate two comedians doing standup for each other.

Whether that entertains depends on whether you like the comedians in question, of course. And having seen a little of Steve Coogan here and there, I thought there would be a chance. (Rob Brydon, I didn't know at all.) The problem is, the movie plays much more like comedians testing material on each other, with the vast majority of it not ready for an audience. It's one of those improvisational movies, where the performers toy around in take after take... without ever truly striking comic gold.

It's possible that I'm not British enough to appreciate what was going on here. There were definitely a lot of references to British shows, celebrities, and so forth that sailed over my head to some extent. But there were also scenes I felt totally "in the know" on, yet still fell flat for me -- like a riff on how to do a Michael Caine impersonation that seemed to go on interminably. The movie itself winds up feeling like the events it's portraying: being stuck on a long road trip with someone who never shuts up.

As dull as this was as a movie, I can only imagine it would have been excruciating as a television series. The same set-ups and jokes were repeated again and again, suggesting a series in which every episode would have been exactly the same. But then, maybe watching them for only a half hour at a stretch wouldn't have generated the prolonged tedium of this two-hour slog.

Aside from one or two moments very early on that got a smile out of me, there was just nothing here to reward my time. I give The Trip a D-. It's one trip I wish I hadn't taken.

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