If you've ever been curious as to what it's like to hang out with a couple of minor celebrities, you could do a lot worse than Michael Winterbottom's The Trip. Based almost entirely on the improvisations of British stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, The Trip is an unusual blend of comedy and drama that can be hilarious, when it's not being repetitive and dull.
The plot is paper-thin: the leads play fictionalized versions of themselves, and after Coogan takes a job from The Observer to tour Northern England's exquisite gourmet restaurants, he is forced to spend the week with his irritating friend, Brydon, in the absence of his lovely American girlfriend, Mischa (whom Coogan wanted to impress in the first place). The film vascillates between the men talking about their lackluster acting careers, performing hilarious competing imitations of famous British actors, and Coogan trying to bang as many younger women as possible (Brydon's happily married).
If you're the kind of person who finds British humor repulsive, then you'll want to stay very far away from The Trip. This is not the sort of broad comedy you're used to seeing from the likes of Todd Phillips or the Farrely Brothers. Instead, you get a rather uncomfortably close glimpse as to what it would really be like for two underemployed actors during a particularly unproductive week. The good news is that Coogan and Brydon are effortlessly funny, and play off each other so well as to overcome the fact that there simply is not a whole lot going on in this movie. The script, if you could call it that, is immensely talky and may be better suited to a one-act play instead of a film. At 110 minutes, the movie wears out its welcome after a while, and could certainly have used to be cut down by at least 20 minutes.
But then again, when else do you have the opportunity to see something like The Trip? Although it really does not have much to offer to people who are not interested in its brand of comedy, it does manage to overcome the litmus test of British films for me (if I understand 75% of the jokes, I'm satisfied). And if you're not satisfied with the meat of the movie, you may be intrigued by the meat in the movie (i.e. the plates of delicious, bizarre food Coogan and Brydon eat and discuss throughout the runtime). I wouldn't call this a foodie film, because the emphasis is still on the banter between the leads, but this extra aspect of the plot is a huge plus for gastronomically inclined viewers.