Steve Coogan as Himself
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
The Trip to Greece Review:
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen any of the previous Trip films — namely The Trip (2011), The Trip to Italy (2014), and The Trip to Spain (2017) — which means I essentially walked into Part 4 blind. And while I wouldn’t compare such an atrocity to experiencing Return of the King before Fellowship of the Ring or the Two Towers, I’d venture to say not having seen the first three (!) films probably impaired my viewing experience somewhat.
Of course, from what I gather, the other Trip entries more or less follow the same beats: two guys (comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) go on vacation and we, the audience, follow along as they explore exotic locales, enjoy delicious meals, and engage in comedic banter.
Call it, Comedians in Exotic Locales Ruminating on Life.
Surprisingly, the simplistic premise works quite well. Mainly because you can tell the two actors are having a blast riffing on everything from Coogan’s car collection to the origin of the word lesbian. Brydon, in particular, takes great pleasure in poking fun at his counterpart’s career.
“I played Hades in Percy Jackson,” Coogan says at one point.
Another scene has the duo discussing Alexander the Great before leaping into impersonations of Marlon Brando and Ray Winstone — “I lost a part to him once!” — and eventually performing a full-fledged improv scene revolving around an extremely horny Henry VIII.
Intercut between these comedic bits are shots of people in kitchens cooking food, and intermediate story beats involving Coogan’s dying father and Brydon’s relationship with his wife. I don’t know enough about either actor to differentiate fact from fiction, suffice to say some of the more dramatic scenes felt a tad, ah, forced. Or, thrown in because the producers needed more of a reason to send its two supremely gifted talents on an all-expense vacation to one of the most beautiful areas of the world.
Speaking of which, Greece truly is amazing. I spent a majority of the film’s 112-minute runtime admiring the views and taking in the trivia — so that’s where NIKE comes from? — even if locations such as that shrine to Aristotle, which basically amounts to a bunch of rocks, failed to leave much of an impact. “I see why they don’t charge,” Brydon quips.
And that’s the thing. Your enjoyment of Trip to Greece will depend on how much of a kick you get from watching rich people drink wine, savor delicious meals and enjoy the high life. Maybe that’s too cynical a statement, but aside from a few moments of introspection, that’s basically the plot. Fans of either actor will revel in the opportunity to spend a couple of hours listening to the pair reflect on life and theorize about such things as where the term, “Blow smoke up your ass,” originated from.
To that end, Trip to Greece is indeed funny. I enjoyed the duo’s observational humor regarding everything from social media to Odysseus, and loved their takes on classic films such as Chariots of Fire, which they sum up as, “Some posh people learn to run really quickly, the end.”
I was reminded of the brilliant FX series Louie, featuring Louis C.K. as an exaggerated version of himself experiencing the highs and lows of life. That show similarly dispersed dramatic moments of introspection between the hilarity but did so in a way that felt more organic to the overarching story.
Trip to Greece wants to carve a deep path to the soul with its ruminations on all things life and death and numerous allusions to Homer’s The Odyssey, but mostly just sullies the fun. The film works best when it drops the baggage and lets its actors rip.
Of course, I could be talking nonsense*.
After all, this is my first Trip.
*Interestingly, while critics have praised the Trip series, audiences haven’t been so kind. Of the four films, only the original scored higher than a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.