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Monday, April 6, 2015

THE TRIP TO ITALY (2014)

Actor/comedians Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon stage a second Cook’s Tour, swapping out England’s Lake District for the Italy of Byron & Shelley in this follow up to THE TRIP/'11. Better scenery, better food (though we see rather less of it), and fine Italian light to help warm up the boys’ grey complexions. (Coogan’s hair is also much improved, thanks to clippers.) But hard as they try (and trying too hard is much the problem), this continuation of their semi-improvised buddy/buddy routine comes off as deleted scenes from the earlier, larkier road pic.* Oh, they still load up on comical vocal impressions, delay family problems for travel writing & fine dining, fall into mid-life sexual foibles, try to crack up the same director (Michael Winterbottom), but the longueurs between rip-roaring hilarity are (ahem) longer. Barely touching on the far more interesting topic hovering before them: what happens to two friends who’ve reached different levels of success when one plateaus just as Mr. Runner-Up hits a breakthrough? And the wasted opportunity saps the joy from their shtick. (NOTE: The sweeping music that keeps returning is from Richard Strauss's FOUR LAST SONGS, but surely the film & IMDb have it wrong listing an Elisabeth Schwarzkopf recording. It's Jessye Norman w/ Kurt Masur, ya, ya?)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: This being a sequel, the boys cite GODFATHER II as the only sequel known to have improved on the original. But this more-or-less universal critical opinion (NYTimes critic Vincent Canby was all but a minority of one in sticking up for the original) deserves testing. Ready? Imagine iconic moments from Part I. (Click, click, click . . . you’re already past a dozen, yes?) Now, Part II (Click . . . stuck at three or four, right? And with an extra hour’s running time.) Too bad the boys didn’t go for that undebatably better-than-the-first sequel, STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN/’82. No possible argument, and the choice would have given them a raft of new distinctive voices to caricature.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Without THE TRIP, this really won't make much sense. (See Write-Up below.)

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