by Alan Yudman

Every few years Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a trip and they bring along a whole movie crew and director Michael Winterbottom. Ok, they may take more frequent trips, but these come across as sophisticated buddy movies. First was 2010’s THE TRIP. in 2014 the pair went on THE TRIP TO ITALY. (Both are available for streaming on Netflix). Now they are off on THE TRIP TO SPAIN.

The basics of the movies are the same. Coogan and/or Brydon have an assignment to check out hotels and restaurants on a weeklong drive through “fill in the blank.” This time Coogan is writing a travelogue to promote a new project. Brydon is writing a similar piece for a British paper. There are not a lot of preliminaries. Coogan calls, asks Brydon if he wants to go, Brydon looks at his screaming or crying kids and quickly says yes.

The charm of these movies is the easy chemistry and familiarity of Coogan and Brydon. They have great comedic timing and play off each other so well. The jokes are there, the impressions are there. Michael Caine, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, and some new ones… Brando, Mick Jagger and a long gag featuring Roger Moore. Interspersed with the jokes are beautiful shots of that particular country’s countryside and mouthwatering shots of chefs preparing gourmet meals. It’s a feast for the ears and the eyes.

There is also always a back story of some personal or career dilemma. This time Brydon seems very grounded and settled while Coogan is dealing with a new agent, a studio that wants to bring in a young writer to polish his latest script, his son Joe’s personal crisis and his love for a married woman. It’s a lot. They try to give Brydon something by having him take a call from Coogan’s former agent, who pitches Brydon his services. It feels thrown in and doesn’t create any dramatic conflict between the friends. That’s something that is missing in this one. There is little conflict between the too as there was in the previous two films. It’s not terrible, simply misplaced.

This one also ends with something of an unanswered question that makes you wonder if this is the final installment or they are just setting up something else.

More of the same is usually death in film. But THE TRIP TO SPAIN feels like catching up with a couple of old friends, and it is always great to see them.

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