By: Paris Wong
It’s an incredibly straightforward premise: actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embark on a trip through beautiful Spain, following their past escapades through England and Italy in previous installments — which, disclaimer, I have seen none of.
Without any sort of context, I was intrigued. I’ve seen some of their works, though not any of these trips, and with no expectations, I settled in for whatever was to come.
In a technical sense, this film is gorgeous. The colors, the sounds, the roving shots of Spanish countryside — it’s absolutely breathtaking scenery. Simply watching Coogan and Brydon, you feel as though you could be right there on vacation with them. They travel from town to town, tasting aesthetically plated, rich, delicious foods, never staying for more than one night like vagabonds without a care in the world.
Until each night, the realities of their lives back home hit them hard.
Here’s where context comes into play: Coogan is struggling to push a script through without bringing on the help of another writer, all while dealing with the loss of his long-time agent-manager, as well as a questionable relationship with his married girlfriend (spoiler: she’s not married to him). Brydon, on the other hand, is much more well-adjusted — he has a wife and kids back in London, but when he gets a surprising call from an agent in Los Angeles, he wavers.
During the day though, it’s all quick wit and best-friend banter, featuring a wide array of impressions from both parties (yes, impressions — and if you’ve seen Brydon on ‘Graham Norton,’ you may catch a delightfully funny story you’ve heard there before).
‘The Trip to Spain’ gets off to a promising start, hitting the ground running — unfortunately, however, some of the jokes stay there. Obviously I would definitely recommend watching the two preceding films, but judging from what I experienced with this one, more often than not the references they made tended not to stick. As a twenty-something millennial, I caught a few, but the audience members were a mostly older crowd. Most memorably I caught a Judi Dench joke, which completely went over the head of an older woman beside me.
Admittedly it’s hard to relate when I don’t have screaming children of my own or haven’t lived through that life experience, but I found I still fairly enjoyed myself — if only for the music and the picturesque shots of castles and winding roads. I appreciated the slice-of-life way in which the story played out, though towards the end it seemed to veer slightly off track.
To their credit, Coogan and Brydon, accompanied by Emma (Claire Keelan) — who I assumed was a close mutual friend or personal assistant — played incredibly well off of one another. At a certain point though, Keelan becomes the most relatable character of them all, sitting between the two men with a slightly uncomfortable expression as she tries to keep up. Their voices do overlap often, which is a recipe for a headache as much as it is simply exhausting — or maybe that’s a credit to just how swiftly they deliver joke after joke. These two can really commit to a gag, and it’s just fun to tag along with them and observe their friendship, especially when they genuinely break down and laugh with one another. That honest chemistry is what drives the entire film (and no doubt the rest of the franchise).
That ending may or may not leave you wanting, but as for me, I may be slightly curious to hear about a fourth film. Where to next?
‘The Trip to Spain’ is…
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Translation: If you like situational comedies, very public impressions of a variety of British actors, or just a good shot of Spanish countryside, this one’s for you. But if the sight and sound of other people eating food wigs you out, you might want to pass.
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