THE TRIP TO ITALY directed by Michael Winterbottom, with Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rosie Fellner and Timothy Leach. An Entertainment One release. 108 minutes. Opens Friday (August 15). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
Please don't see The Trip To Italy without having eaten something first. The sound of your stomach growling might drown out the best lines.
The sequel to their terrific 2010 comedy The Trip, it once again finds Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and director/enabler Michael Winterbottom taking a grand tour of fine dining, prickly conversation and surprisingly deep human insight.
This time, rather than England's Lake District, Coogan and Brydon knock around splendid hotels and restaurants in scenic Italy to write a series of celebrity food articles for the Observer. But in the years since the first movie, their (fictional) fortunes have reversed somewhat: Coogan went to America for a TV series that's just been cancelled, while Brydon's star is on the rise thanks to a string of successful stage performances and TV projects.
As in the first film (like this one edited down from a six-part BBC series), much fun is had with duelling impressions and professional rivalry, but the fact that both Coogan and Brydon are now undeniably middle-aged makes everything a little more melancholic.
The Trip To Italy addresses this head on, as much as any movie in which real people play exaggerated versions of themselves can do. Movie Steve is depressed because girls don't smile back at him like they used to; Movie Rob, married with a child, is just starting to realize they're smiling at him instead.
That shift in status subtly informs their every conversation and argument, even bubbling to the surface in exchanges where one fantasizes about killing the other, if only to stop him from imitating Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty.
For all the glorious dishes prepared and served, that's where you'll find the meat of this movie.