Monday, August 25, 2014

It’s been said of great mimics that they capture not just the voice and the manner of their subjects but their very souls. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, master impersonators and stars of the new comedy “The Trip to Italy,” are after something less grand and, in many ways, funnier. The movie is a sequel to “The Trip” (2011)—both were directed by Michael Winterbottom—and it repeats the earlier film’s mixed tone of hilarity and melancholia, as well as its absurd premise: the two men (they play themselves) are on an all-expenses-paid trip for the Observer. Their tough assignment is to drive through beautiful country, eat lavishly, and stay in exquisite small hotels, all so that one or the other can write high-toned culinary drivel for the paper. (They don’t actually know anything about food.) “The Trip” was set in the bleakly magnificent scenery of the hills and moors of the North of England; this film is set mainly along the incomparable coast (Liguria, Amalfi) of Italy. As the men amble through paradise, savoring such dishes as polpo alla griglia and coniglio arrosto, they take turns topping each other with riotous impressions of movie stars. They aren’t interested in anyone’s soul; they see themselves simply as professionals in an exacting trade that requires getting Christian Bale’s guttural whisper and Roger Moore’s English-butter croon exactly right. They also try to one-up each other as men, vying for professional success and for the attention of the invariably lovely women they meet. Sharks have duller teeth than Coogan and Brydon. Both movies, in fact, are about the impossibility—and the necessity—of male friendship.

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