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The Trip to Italy

In a letter to a friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, “The demon of mistrust and pride lurks between two persons in our situation.” He was referring to himself and Lord Byron. This certainly doesn’t describe the bromantic relationship between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip to Italy, the sequel to The Trip (2011). I only bring it up because the two comic actors keep bringing up those two nineteenth century English poets as they motor through Italy to sightseeing destinations, including Shelley’s grave. This visit might make one wonder why, subsequently, Coogan gets Shelley’s age at his demise wrong during one of his breezy cultural observations to Brydon. No matter. I mean, nothing in particular much matters in this amiable cinematic trifle. It’s all streaming acting-out, largely irrelevant commentary, and the more-or-less charming chit-chat.

Both movies have been edited down by director Michael Winterbottom from two six-part BBC series. The results actually resemble a cheerfully unfocused documentary. Although some planning was undertaken, the serial disjointed conversation is largely unrehearsed.

And it proceeds on the most gossamer of pretexts: Brydon has supposedly been engaged by The Observer to write about Italian cuisine. (In the first one, Coogan was writing about northern English restaurants.) Needless to say, not a jot of writing is observed, not even a note.

In this one there is a barely attempted note of gravity, with brief dilations on mortality (girls no longer look back at them in their middle ages). The early-departed Shelley and Byron are used to embellish this bogus sadness.

But for the most part, it’s more of the same in a different setting. Coogan tells us, “We won’t be doing any impersonations...” but before long he and his companion have reverted to impressions of Michael Caine, Hugh Grant and, of course, Sean Connery. (They do bring in Christian Bale and a remarkably bad Humphrey Bogart.)

Their improv skills are still surpassingly fine, but you can wind up wishing they’d freshened the act a bit more.

Watch the trailer for The Trip to Italy

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