19 December 2017 | Movie_Muse_Reviews
"The Trip" series is aging like fine wine, as are its characters
If you've come along for the other "Trips" with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you clearly know what you're in for and what you want out of "The Trip to Spain," the third installment of the British TV mini-series cut into a feature-length film about two middle-aged friends on a food tour for a magazine.
"Spain" does not mess with the formula. We get all the impersonations, stunning vistas, food porn, literature/poetry references, etc. that we signed up for. The only thing that has changed are where these fictional versions of Steve and Rob are in terms of life stage and how they're dealing with their newly entered 50s in both their careers and personal lives.
If anything, the chemistry between Coogan and Brydon (and director Michael Winterbottom) has only gotten stronger. They're able to devise hilarious bits on the fly even more naturally than before. Unlike "The Trip" and "The Trip to Italy," almost no drama unfolds during the course of the film. Steve and Rob's never-ending game of one-upsmanship is what largely keeps this film afloat, though they each do deal independently with struggles regarding love and family.
As such, "Spain" ends up filling in the portraits of these two friends and their lives with more details, as if the painting was sketched out in "The Trip" and started to be filled in in "Italy." With just about everything else in this movie remaining a constant, we're able to spend more time looking more closely at those details - and by the same token, Winterbottom can add more nuance. The depiction of Steve as Don Quixote and Rob as Sancho Panza creates a solid focal point to better examine these characters, who it turns out are quite like their respective Cervantes creations.
So little about "The Trip" films could be considered mainstream that it feels odd to describe them as cinematic comfort food, but to the set of tastes that have taken to them so far, they are exactly that. The sense of humor, their dynamic and Winterbottom's naturalist approach are so reliable that even with minimal changes from film to film, the series ages well. "Italy" initially felt like a retread, but "Spain" feels like an improvement just by virtue of time, all of its elements and flavors improving and congealing with patience and experience.
All this makes the film's twist ending that much more unexpected. Suddenly there's a hint of plot continuity and it's as though we have no idea what to do with it. How the series proceeds will mean everything, but for now it's just a dash of mystery in an otherwise familiar and enjoyable film.
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