May 22, 2020 The Trip to Greece (Movie Review)
They have been to Spain, Italy and, most glamorous of all, Northern England. Now Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People 2002, Philomena 2013) and Rob Brydon (A Cock & Bull Story 2005, The Huntsman: Winter’s War 2016) take on Greece as they retrace Odysseus’ journey from Troy back to Ithaca in The Trip to Greece.
Set for release on Friday, May 22nd, 2020 via IFC Films, Director Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart 2007, Greed 2019) is back behind the camera for the last installment in the improv road trip series.
The Trip saga in general is a bit unique. On the face of it, it seems like a typical BBC travel documentary series. Like 2015’s Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure, where Irish Comedians Dara O Briain and Ed Byrne traveled across the Americas by car. It was presented as a documentary – a less reverent and funny one – but it still had the usual informative trappings. By contrast, the Trip series weaves any educational bits and pieces into banter, drama, and improv comedy.
In a way, it kind of feels more realistic as friends are unlikely to remind each other who wrote the Odyssey (“Well, it wasn’t going to be James Joyce!”) or stick in stock footage to illustrate their points. On the other, the series has scenes that feel like one is watching a full-on drama than some piece of cinema verité. Like how Ben Stiller (The Cable Guy 1994, There’s Something About Mary 1999) turns up in a dream sequence in the original Trip.
The Trip to Greece keeps with that style – lush, Greek surroundings filmed with cinematic direction as Brydon and Coogan trade banter and impressions. The production is as cinematic as ever, throwing in some nice aerial shots of the likes of Asos and Stagira. This is likely to break up the fact that much of the film, and the series in general, is based around Brydon and Coogan sitting at tables. The Trip series were based around the two reviewing restaurants for one newspaper or another, so it cannot be avoided.
The same goes for the dramatic touches. Some people enter the story like characters in a play or fictional film rather than guests on a documentary or passers-by. There are even some more dream sequences, only Greek-inspired now. The drama feels odd at first, but as the film progresses, it blends in quite well with the Demis Roussos gags and quips against bad British newspapers. It certainly makes one feel for the characters on-screen, even though they are being themselves. Or amplified versions of themselves anyway.
The Trip to Greece’s sense of humor does work, but it is more likely to get polite chuckles than bring in the belly laughs. It might even be a bit too Brit-centric for overseas audiences in places. Luckily, most of the references are about familiar figures like Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate 1968) and Laurence Olivier (Rebecca 1940) than Ronnie Corbett (The Two Ronnies series). It also helps that Brydon and Coogan have had strong chemistry with each other since before the first Trip series, as this carries a lot of the humor. Nonetheless, its improvised nature means the jokes are still a bit hit-or-miss, with the odds just about in favor of the hits.
So, overall, The Trip to Greece is pretty much on par with its prior editions. The direction is lush, especially with the outdoor locations. Brydon and Coogan work well together, and the drama fits in just as well across its run-time. However, it is not a gag-per-minute kind of comedy. If anything, it is perhaps what people think of when they think of the stereotypical British comedy – dry, low tempo, and a bit witty. The film might do better for drama fans who like to smile occasionally, rather than comedy fans who want to feel serious every now and then. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.