The Trip to Spain; Not rated; 111 min
When the first of these road trip movies appeared in 2010 and Steve Coogan and Bob Brydon took a culinary tour of England, I missed it. That film was followed in 2014 by visits to similar Michelin restaurants and five-star hotels as they wandered through Italy. That led to “The Trip to Spain,” their third adventure-lite excursion through the rolling, bucolic hills of Spain, once again taking a week to stop at historic stone hotels, each at least several hundred years old, as well as renowned restaurants that serve cuisine on white oval plates that prove to be works of art.
But the essence of these trips — adapted from a BBC series — is the conversation that Coogan and Brydon engage in as they sit across from one another, their elbows leaning on white tableclothes while sipping robust local wines.
So therein is the full reveal. There is no plot per se. Nada. OK, there is a fragile, oblique theme in “The Trip to Spain,” one hidden in all their smart banter and endless impressions of the likes of Michael Caine or Sean Connery, enhanced with spot-on Mick Jagger mimicry. That theme? It’s about confronting the reality that they have arrived at that point in life just beyond middle age. And as much as that seems to matter to them, the improvisational dialogue never takes a deep dive into this existential question, one that is instead studiously ignored in favor of verbal play and clever ripostes.
There are private moments when the two pause and make contact with family back home, and in a way those conversations are more engaging than the riffs that take place over dinner. I know that sounds heretical, for it is these back-and-forth musings and comedic retorts that take stage center and engage what I can only assume is an acquired taste. I do acknowledge that British humor can be dry as day-old toast.
Actually, I enjoy most British films, and they often do courageous comedy with off-center, character-driven stories that are both brilliant and subtle. But I confess that hanging out with these two Brits for almost two hours, interspersed with a travelogue of Spain, can be tedious and at times seem a bit self-indulgent.
One other observation: Although the food served looks tasty and is so nicely presented, and Brydon is ostensibly going to write restaurant reviews (Coogan is writing a memoir), little is ever said about the food itself. They taste it, nod appreciatively, but are too busy relishing their conversations to comment on what’s before them.
My last observation: There were times when I felt that the insipid/clever/smart discussions were a way of avoiding what was really on their minds: old age, meaning mortality. Coogan does say, “If you’re ripe, is it better to be plucked or just drop?”
But having said that, they quickly move on to a back-and-forth, return service, run to the net repartee focused on Roger Moore as James Bond and the Moors. They avoided saying s’mores. But I waited for it.
Given the last scene of “The Trip to Spain,” expect a fourth film, likely set in Morocco. How that comes about given the final set-up, well, we’ll see.