By Laurie Coker
Generally, Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden are extremely funny men. Coogan oscillates nicely between comedy and drama and his name draws fans from both sides of the pond. Bryden and Coogan traveled together to Northern England and to Italy in previous “trips” and now embark on a journey to Spain. The pair share the food of Spain, personal reflections on middle age and witty barbs. Much of the humor comes from their trademark impressions and reluctant acceptance of growing older.
Rob, the middle-aged father of two young children and Steve, a single father of a college aged son, depart London in Steve’s ostentatious black Land Rover, crossing the channel by ferry. As with many trips, there is chit-chat and small talk, but amidst the doldrums of life outside the SUV, conversations turn to the journey at hand and fluctuate between serious and hysterical. These fellows know each other and there is an underlying rivalry in which Steve constantly tries to get the upper-hand. From the onset, he one-ups Rob at every turn or at least tries to.
Their imitations of famous people are spot on and garner most of the laughs, except for a few times when they go on too long and too loudly in Steve’s case. They challenge each other – both doing the same impression. Rich Little (and I age myself) thrilled with his wide and varied impersonations, but I am not sure Coogan and Bryden shared all of theirs. I wanted more. They afford us wonderful scenic views of Spain and visits to first rate hotels and eateries. The food looks amazing. While the focus is not on the countryside and villages, they are certainly an ideal backdrops.
Coogan and Bryden offer dry, British humor and they enjoy making fun each other and themselves. Both are the same age, but live extremely different lives – one married to a younger woman and the other dating a married women. They are caught in this world of middle-age and lumbering along like lost bears. There are tells in their banter – personal reflections and insecurities and its strange watching sometimes because it feels too intimate. Steve practically begs for work when his agent drops him – putting his life in the hands of a wet-behind the ears former assistant turned agent. A majority of his digs at Rob seem an effort to lift himself up and pat himself on the back. Rob whirls in his life as an older than average father and is shocked when Steve’s former agent fishes for him as a client.
The Trip to Spain stumbles a bit, bogging down in tediousness at times. Coogan goes for broke with his outlandishly loud impersonations, while Bryden is more subdued. The film’s pacing is fair enough, but even with this masterful comedians, the story’s subtle stance on all aspects of theme slips away in the repartee. The Trip to Spain earns a C+ in my grade book. It is better than average, but just.