Following the formula established in The Trip (2011) and The Trip to Italy (2014), actors, comics, and spot-on celebrity impersonators, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon return as fictionalized versions of themselves making another culinary trip, this one to Spain.
As with the first two outings, Coogan and Brydon, now writing for The New York Times, leave England for a week to travel Spain’s coastline, visit historic areas, enjoy the comfort of rustically designed hotels, and sample mouth-watering selections from Spanish restaurants. For Coogan, it’s an article re-living a journey he made as a young man; for Brydon, it’s a series of restaurant reviews.
Coogan’s manager has dropped him, his screenplay is getting a re-write from a new, up and coming writer, plus there’s an issue with his son, Joe (Tim Leach) who is supposed to meet up with dad on the last leg of the journey, but for reasons revealed in a phone call, can’t. As for Brydon, family life with the wife and kids is proving a little more demanding than expected. When Coogan calls and asks if Brydon is game for a third trip, all it takes is a scream in the living room from one of the children for Brydon to give an emphatic, “Yes!”
In truth, watching The Trip to Spain feels little more than a retread of things seen before, but in a different, sun-drenched location. The friendly, though sometimes argumentative banter of the two, whether it’s in the black Range Rover winding its way along the coastline or at the dinner table, is initially amusing, often extremely so, but there’s a point where the competitive impersonations – particularly the over-indulgence of Roger Moore; funny at first, but then, enough already – overstay their welcome.
Monday’s lunchtime conversation sets a tone for what lies ahead. For many of the conversations to follow, there’s an overall feel of growing older, regret, things not yet accomplished, and even the circle of life. What begins with duel impersonations of Mick Jagger turns into a conversation of aging and what it must be like – in Jagger’s case – to have a child at the age of 72. “Charlie Chaplin was knocking them out in his eighties,” states Coogan. Once back in the car, the two start singing Noel Harrison’s The Windmills of Your Mind, with Brydon reminding Coogan that Noel was the son of famous actor Rex, who once sang The Rain In Spain. It’s another circle, Brydon and Coogan agree, something the film itself also does by replaying parts the original song throughout the journey, then in its entirety during the end credits.
Internationally, Coogan is the better known of the two performers, reflected in both the billing and a later sequence of a photo-shoot set against a backdrop of windmills. Brydon is dressed as Sancho Panza, the squire on his donkey, next to Coogan’s Don Quixote, seated high atop of a horse. Despite a long list of film and television credits, Coogan’s biggest international success was 2013’s Philomena, a subject that continues to comically surface at regular intervals along the journey, and something that clearly irks Brydon. “I can’t deny it’s not been a significant part of my life,” Coogan states. “I can’t deny it’s not been a significant part of this journey,” Brydon responds. Later, when the Welsh comedian receives a call asking where a missing Coogan might be, Brydon tells the caller not to worry. “He’ll be talking to a nun asking if she’s heard of Judi Dench,” he replies.
Rob Brydon is better known on British shores as an impressionist, an actor, a radio panelist, and a TV game show host, though he has ventured into film. He played a version of himself opposite Coogan in 2005’s A Cock and Bull Story (the inspiration that paired them together for the Trip TV series), plus, like Coogan, Hollywood once beckoned. With the help of some computer imagery, he played the debt-collecting dwarf Gryff in 2016’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a point acknowledged in The Trip to Spain when Brydon receives a call from the same agent that earlier dropped Coogan and is now enticing Brydon to come to Los Angeles. Referring to The Huntsman, the agent (Kerry Shale) states how much he liked that little midget walk thing Brydon did through the forest.
Like the first two outings, The Trip to Spain is not so much a film but a collection of highlights as originally seen in the six-part British TV series edited together, broken down not into episodes but into days of the week. For American audiences generally unfamiliar with Coogan and Brydon or the TV trilogy, it’s safe to say that if you saw and enjoyed the first two films, then the leisurely paced third will be just as entertaining. If not, the film’s faux documentary style, its tempo, and its humor is likely to bemuse more than anything else.
MPAA Rating: NR Length: 108 Minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)