Like cinematic comfort food, The Trip To Spain offers little by way of new material yet delivers precisely what you want and love.
There are few pleasures more simple or satisfying in this life than a great meal with great company, and it’s from that formula we again find comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan bouncing from one tantalising meal to the next in Michael Winterbottom’s third instalment of his gastro-comedy series The Trip.
Beginning in 2010, the original Trip was a ‘best of’ that drew from Winterbottom’s six-part series for the BBC in which Brydon and Coogan travelled the UK’s Lake District ‘reviewing’ restaurants for their respective publishers. It featured a threadbare fictional storyline that served only to place these two astoundingly witty and sardonic impressionists opposite each other like verbal sparring partners forever determined to fell the other with one single, devastating barb. The result was a delightful and unexpectedly laugh-out-loud comedy (as well as a showcase of remarkable celebrity impersonations) that never once threatened to veer even remotely close towards the gross-out or foul-mouthed comedy format so common in contemporary Hollywood offerings.
The Trip’s success spawned its first sequel four years later with The Trip To Italy, and now we’re greeted with the 'third course' so to speak in the The Trip To Spain. It’s all very much business as usual, with close ups of mouth-watering food porn breaking up the otherwise largely static shots of Coogan and Brydon facing off against one another backed by breathtaking scenery and captivating architecture. There’s some history thrown in throughout the film, as well as the occasional food review, but at its heart The Trip To Spain knows where its gold lies and it rarely strays from the path.
As per the evergreen personality questionnaires that ask: ‘if you could invite any two people to a dinner party, who would they be?’ you’d be hard pressed to find a better return on investment than Brydon and Coogan given how effortlessly the two become twenty. Many of the same impersonations from the first two movies return here (Caine, Pacino and - most notably - Roger Moore, almost to the point of ad nauseam), however it’s the new entries of David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Sir Anthony Hopkins that earn the greatest laughs. That they’re so often inspired by real life encounters and precious personal moments with their subjects gives what might otherwise feel like a tired parlour trick a critical grounding in tenderness, especially in the case of the Bowie exchange.
If there’s a complaint to be made this time round, it’s that the fictional storyline brings the film to a close on a note that’s as bizarre as it is abrupt. The likelihood of another follow-up seems assured given the left-field cliffhanger, but it’s so at odds with the class and character of the series that one almost wishes the fictional narrative could be dispensed with entirely and the series allowed to exist purely as a culinary and comedic road trip. Either that, or that it shift away from the TV episodic format and become an out-and-out feature series. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, at least, we’ve still some sumptuous comedy to enjoy, and some delicious food to match.