The Trip To Greece

PA Photo:© Sky UK Limited.png
PA Photo © Sky UK Limited

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A franchise that began with as a rapid-fire cascade of gags to rival the Marx Brothers has evolved, profoundly, into a rich and somber elegiac meditation on middle age. And why not? The key thing about Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip movies has always been that they were making it up as they went along, and only now, at this fourth and supposedly final juncture, can we see the retrospective and rather monumental path they’ve struck.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon trade quips, barbs and, of course, impressions once again, always in glorious (and exceedingly expensive) locations over glorious (and exceedingly expensive) lunches, but that banter is now the side dish rather than the main meal. Indeed, the repartee is deliberately perfunctory, a sort of greatest hits, with quick reminders that the lads can do Roger Moore and Mick Jagger, Al Pacino and Rod Stewart (they refrain from re-mining Michael Caine). A brief foray into Ray Winstone is gut-bustingly funny, a reminder of the experience of pretty much the entire first two movies.

This is Winterbottom’s most cinematic, crafted, layered and storied of the four films, and by far the most moving. The tone is often melancholic, aided by a selection of sweeping, mournful music that represents a bold choice for an ostensibly silly comedy series (of course, it’s no longer that). At one point I cried. It’s a send-off to the boys for the fans; whatever you do, if you haven’t visited this series yet, don’t begin here. This is not the starter’s pistol, it’s the end of the race, and the runners are gasping for breath, fully aware of their own mortality and how heroic they really may or may not be.

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**** (out of five)

The simple fact of the matter is that if you enjoyed The Trip and The Trip To Italy, you’re going to enjoy The Trip to Spain – it’s more of the same, but in Spain. Likewise, there is a relative correlation – if you loved the first two movies, as I did, you’ll love this one. I did.

Once again our intrepid food reviewers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon drive around a gorgeous country eating amazing food and keeping each other amused, often with impersonations of British movie stars (yes, for the uninitiated, that is the actual conceit of the franchise). This time Roger Moore comes in as the most imitated, followed closely by Mick Jagger. Sir Ian McKellan gets a good look in too along with sundry others. Coogan, this time, is contemplating writing a travel book inspired by an earlier sexual conquest in Spain; to give the film even the tiniest pretence of drama, both actors are having slight issues with agents in the United States.

Once again Michael Winterbottom shoots the country and its food spectacularly while getting out of the way of his two brilliant clowns. I laughed like a drain. There is one extended sequence during which the entire critic’s screening room I was in sounded like it was about to combust from laughing so hard. Although these films were originally intended for television (in half-hour form), they are best enjoyed in as full a cinema as possible to partake of the laugh orgy inevitably inspired.

Just see this. It’s the funniest film of 2017; it’s that simple.