‘The Trip’ film series offers laughter, tears, and a virtual vacation

“The Trip” film series (2011-2020)

Imagine a joint venture between the Travel Channel, the Food Network and Comedy Central. What you might end up with is a four-film series starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves. “The Trip” and “The Trip to Italy” were cut from
episodes of the 2010 British television show, “The Trip,” featuring Coogan as a writer sent on a restaurant tour of the Lake District in Northern England. When Coogan’s girlfriend decides to take a break from their relationship, he invites his friend Brydon to accompany him. The rest is cinema history.

Brydon is famous in Great Britain for his “Small Man in a Box” character, while comedian Coogan likes to jokingly remind viewers of his numerous BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards for acting and producing. Both Brydon and Coogan gained fame in the film, “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” where they first worked with director Michael Winterbottom.

The four “Trip” films follow Brydon and Coogan as they tour Northern England, Italy, Spain, and Greece. We are treated to spectacular vistas, gourmet restaurants dropped into gorgeous settings, and gastronomic bliss as the camera cuts from chefs preparing meals to refined wait staff serving multiple courses to Brydon and Coogan. The heart of each film, however, is the often-improvised conversation that takes place while they are eating, driving, and sightseeing.

Both Brydon and Coogan are impressionists, with a wide array of favorite celebrities they masterfully mimic, including Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Mick Jagger, and Marlon Brando. Their battle to one-up each other will leave you laughing or leave you annoyed; there is likely no
in-between. Their witty repartee is fast-paced and occasionally snarky, and while the films are comedies, they can be contemplative and melancholic; in fact, in “The Trip to Greece,” the specter of death hovers over the entire trip.

In “The Trip to Greece” (aptly subtitled “The Final Course”), Brydon and Coogan retrace the steps of Homer’s Odysseus as he journeyed home after the Trojan War. The film is lightly scripted and the banter reflective of their on-screen personas. For a better understanding of the actors’ off-screen relationship, see the interview from 2020 in the observer.com. Brydon and Coogan continue to vie for the crown of best mimic with impressions running the gamut from Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” to my favorite, a dental drill. If the very idea of this sounds ridiculous and you fail to be intrigued by beautiful scenery and epicurean delights, then you might not enjoy this series. “The Trip to Greece” has a somber overtone and a bittersweet ending based on actual events from Coogan’s life. It is a fitting conclusion to a 10-year cinematic journey.

You can stream “The Trip” on Netflix; if you enjoy it, consider watching the other three films. I love to travel, I love to eat, and I love watching Brydon and Coogan do both. Bon voyage and bon appetit. ​

A retired high school English teacher, Cindy Peters Duzi serves on the Filmworks board as venue director. She blogs about current cinema on her Instagram.