ENGLISH COMEDIAN Steve Coogan carries with him a strange, desperate need to be loved by his audience. Or rather, a desire to be thought of as incredibly funny. And be incredibly famous. Preferably, in Hollywood.
Armed with this knowledge, celebrated filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Killer Inside Me, A Mighty Heart) embraces Coogan’s ego-centric behaviour head-on, as does the poor hapless soul who joins him on his tour of English restaurants: fellow funnyman Rob Brydon.
For much of the duration, we’re treated to stunning scenery in the north of England (particularly the Lake District), while being subjected to Coogan’s relentless one-upmanship against his fellow man. Which, as it turns out, proves to be very funny indeed.
For all his faults, Coogan clearly recognises the fact that those who know him have a strange fondness, where most would have disdain. His putdowns of his best mate (Rob Brydon) are born out of envy rather than malice, and their sparring over Sean Connery and Michael Caine impressions are priceless. These two are clearly very talented individuals, albeit with polar opposite personalities.
Adding to the wry comedy of Coogan-playing-Coogan (still best known for his TV chat-show host caricature Alan Partridge) is his endless calling to his on-off girlfriend (Margo Stilley), who ducked out at the last minute from taking ‘the trip’ with him. We barely glimpse her, which is apt, given that he can’t help himself while on holiday (having his wicked way with a hotel chambermaid).
Considering its small-screen origins (it was first presented as a six-part television series in its native UK), The Trip works surprisingly well on the big screen as one continuous tale. That’s down to its two leading men, who clearly relish sharing screen time with one another (previous collaborations include 24 Hour Party People). As a result, some sharp, friendly banter is allowed to flourish, with neither taking themselves too seriously. Wickedly funny it is, too.
Critical Rating: 8/10.
THE TRIP is in cinemas from Thursday.
First published in The Sun-Herald.