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Out in the Sticks, a Bish-Bash-Bosh Journey

MOVIE REVIEW
The Trip (2011)

The-trip-steve-coogan-rob-brydon-bbc-tribeca-film-festival
Phil Fisk/IFC Films

One can never accuse Michael Winterbottom of making the same film twice, but “The Trip” comes pretty darn close. To be fair, the project is a six-episode BBC Two series edited down to feature length, but here you have Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon again as themselves à la “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.” The premise involves Mr. Coogan embarking on a cross-country journey to sample a few eclectic restaurants, and Mr. Brydon tagging along after Mr. Coogan’s American girlfriend drops out. Although fashioned after “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” what transpires instead is a British “Sideways” or “Old Joy” that substitutes celebrity impersonations for midlife crises — and not with stellar results.

From Richard Burton, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen to Roger Moore and Hugh Grant, Messrs. Coogan and Brydon spare few British thespians with their admittedly amusing impressions. The food looks fantastic, especially those elaborate creations from the taster menu at L’Enclume in Cartmel, such as an appetizer that Mr. Coogan dubbed alcoholic snot. The film leaves you wanting a lot more of those laboriously prepared fancy dishes.

Unfortunately, though, “The Trip” cuts itself short when it tries too hard to be “Sideways.” Characters in “Sideways” and “Old Joy” must re-evaluate their lives upon realizing they have nothing in common with their lifelong best friends, but there are few clear differences between Messrs. Coogan and Brydon in “The Trip.” It’s almost as if Mr. Coogan is the composite of both the Paul Giamatti and the Thomas Hayden Church characters from the Alexander Payne film: He’s the underachieving artist, bitching about Michael Sheen’s stardom; and he’s also the philanderer who enjoys serial one-night stands while the girlfriend is away. Even with additional emotional baggage such as a son he doesn’t have custody of, the story arc of the “The Trip” just seems forced without ever reaching the sort of cathartic climax it approximates.

THE TRIP

Opens on June 10 in Manhattan.

Directed by Michael Winterbottom; director of photography, Ben Smithard; edited by Mags Arnold and Paul Monaghan; music by Michael Nyman; produced by Andrew Eaton and Melissa Parmenter; released by IFC Films. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Steve Coogan (Steve), Rob Brydon (Rob), Claire Keelan (Emma), Margo Stilley (Mischa), Rebecca Johnson (Sally), Dolya Gavanski (Magda) and Kerry Shale (Steve’s United States Agent).

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