Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Winterbottom's THE TRIP: major laughs from Coogan, Brydon and... Michael Caine

Michael Caine? Not really. Caine comes out of the two stars of Michael Winterbottom's very funny new movie THE  TRIP.  (A director not known for humor, Winterbottom has made, out of more than 20 films in 20 years, only two that you could call comedies.) His stars in this film, however, are Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and both do such fab impressions of this great British actor that you'd swear he was there. (Caine, who loves movies, will certainly see this one, and I would expect that he'll be laughing right along with the rest of the audience.)

Mr. Winterbottom (shown at right) is taking, I should think, some sort of vacation with his new movie, which is itself a kind of vacation in which two buddies (I use that last word loosely) tour the Brit hinterlands reviewing restaurants and one-upping each other regarding their superlative impressions of various movie people. Competition and the male ego have rarely been shown to such disadvantage (for the owners) and such amusement (for the audience). These two "mates" are also, more often than not, unemployed actors -- with (as in real life, one suspects) Coogan the more oft-employed and Brydon, the not-quite-there-yet.

Does anyone preen as nastily -- at the same time pretending not to -- as Coogan (above, right)? Doubtful. This guy excels at playing pigs of major proportions. And Brydon, above, left, as the lap dog trying desperately to be the Great Dane, proves the perfect foil.

While the film makes great fun of haute cuisine, foodies and cell-phone unavail-ability (left), it is mostly an insider's movie. From its Ben Stiller fantasy to Coogan's agent to those near- constant impressions (there are some very good ones of Woody Allen), the movie's so chock-a-block with sophistica-ted and/or work-related references that non-film-buffs had best stay away, for they'll probably sit in stony silence wondering what all the laughter is about. 

We also get some crackerjack scenery, The Winner Takes It All, and more impressions. At 107 minutes, the movie's too long. It could easily lose 15 of these, but I suspect everyone was having too good a time to yell "cut!" What about later, in the editing room? My theory is that perhaps there was still so much laughter that, well, they kept in damn near everything.

Still, you really do get the sense that these two guys enjoy each other's company immensely. And we enjoy theirs. Just maybe not quite so much of them. The Trip, from IFC Films, opens this Friday. June 10, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the IFC Center. It'll play elsewhere, I am sure, and then on June 22, as happens with so many IFC movies, you can get it via VOD.

4 comments:

a fog of ideas said...

This was originally a six-part tv series (half hour episodes), I imagine most of the trimmed stuff was Coogan and Brydon's impressions of UK TV personalities... did they keep the Ray Winstone impressions in?

This series/film works as a good companion/follow up to Winterbottom's 'A Cock and Bull Story' where Coogan and Brydon also play 'themselves' as they film the 'unfilmable' Laurence Sterne comic novel 'Tristram Shandy'

James van Maanen, said...

Hey, Fog--
Good to hear from you! I saw this film a couple of months ago, but didn't write about it until yesterday, so I can't recall whether or not any Ray Winstone impression was left in. As much as I like that actor (44 Inch Chest is one of my favorites), I can't say that I would recognize an impression of him, in any case.

And I do fondly remember Winterbottom's Cock & Bull Story, as Tristram Shandy is one of my favorite "classic" books. Other than that movie, and the wonderful "24-Hour Party People," I don't think Winterbottom has made other comedies. Has he?

And I see that you appear to have deleted your Fuck Off blog post (I can't find it, at least). Which means that you are feeling better, I hope?

But you are right: they've deleted all references to Brit TV personalities for the USA release of "The Trip" film, I think. Which is just as well for us movie-going Americans, probably.
--Jim

a fog of ideas said...

Ha ha! Yes, I had a temper tantrum... I was rather hoping nobody had seen that... the Winstone 'bit' is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSWSth29MSM - I hope that plays in your region. It may not be the most sophisticated humour at work but, um, that's probably why it amused me.

James van Maanen, said...

Very funny bit. And, you know, I think it might have been in the movie version, after all. It has been several months since I've seen the film, and I am learning that I need to arrange the screening and its review a bit closer together so that my aging brain recalls more of what I saw so I can fill up the review properly. But thanks for that link. Boy, these two are GOOD! And I suspect that in half-hour (or at least shorter-length) doses, their humor goes down even better....