by Richard Gould
THE TRIP TO ITALY premiered at Sundance last January as the sequel to Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip, a BBC TV series-turned-theatrical release that featured Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as their “real-life” characters on a north-England restaurant tour and became a cult favorite. This latest installment squeezes the pair into a Mini Cooper and heads them down the Amalfi coast on assignment for an Observer photo essay–Rossellini’s Journey to Italy et. al. come in for quote–and the effect, when you’re not laughing through tears at their coruscating banter and improv, is enchantment. Tasked by the paper to follow in the footsteps of Byron and Shelley as they sample the very best food and lodging the country has to offer, the two chat about age, romance and mortality and life’s other Big Things–peppering the soul-search with exceedingly small-minded impersonations of Michael Caine and Connery, Pacino and Bane through a mask, in a style that will have you howling. Maybe newbies can see what longtime fans can’t: A literary greatness of sorts sneaks up in this film. Talk of gnawing Mo Farah’s legs off, when set against the escarpment-hugging towns, restaurants and villas of the most beautiful place on earth, gives a powerful sense of perspective. Certain to spawn a thousand TripAdvisor searches and dinner reservations, the DVD also contains 20 side-splitting minutes of deleted scenes.