‘The Trip to Greece’ – Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon banter with Greece as a backdrop
By Eleanor Ringel Cater
Greece is the word – or it would be if its magnificent scenery could get a word in edgewise as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon chatter and babble non-stop through the fourth and final leg of their meandering series in “The Trip to Greece.”
Back in 2010, the British actors and their director, Michael Winterbottom, launched a series of four faux travelogues in which the pair, ostensibly on a magazine assignment, wine and dine their way through some of the most breathtaking countryside on the planet.
“The Trip,” which took them to England’s Lake Country, was followed by “The Trip to Italy” (2014) and “The Trip to Spain” (2017). Now it’s Greece’s turn, the idea being the men will follow in Odysseus’s footsteps, from Troy to Ithaca. Only, the Greek hero had 10 years. They’ve got 6 days.
Hardship isn’t the point, however. These guys – make that, these vain, over-the-top, exaggerated caricatures of Coogan and Brydon – sit at the best seaside tables, drinking in exquisite wine and more exquisite vistas while sharing meals of mussels on smoked pine needles or braised lamb or pearly-white fresh-caught shrimp.
The film’s on-going theme is what clods they are, their self-absorption and practiced shtick (much of which is hilarious) crowding out everything else. The sparkling Mediterranean dances at their feet, and all they’re interested in is dueling Dustin Hoffman impersonations.
Let’s take a moment…please let me explain who our travelers are. Coogan is the better known of the two, having made some in-roads into the American consciousness with movies like “Philomena,” “Stan & Ollie,” “24 Hour Party People,” and the “Night at the Museum” series (he’s the Roman centurion opposite Owen Wilson’s cowboy).
He’s best known in Britain for playing a TV character named Alan Patridge, which has won him seven BAFTA awards – something he never tires of bringing up.
Brydon is less famous on both sides of the pond, but he’s got a respectable filmography, including “Cinderella,” “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” and “Holmes & Watson.” Still, when it comes to impersonations sketches, goofy digressions and pure actor ego, he can more than hold his own with Coogan.
And they are often sidesplitting together. A discussion of the Battle of Marathon morphs into “Marathon Man” which leads to the aforementioned dueling Hoffmans. A mention of Sparta threads through Hercules vs. Heracles and devolves into a confrontation between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Werner Herzog (don’t ask).
Perhaps because this is their finale, “Greece” inches into some more serious territory. Relationships, family, aging parents, that sort of thing. Coogan even suffers through a black-and-white nightmare that’s straight out of an Ingmar Bergman film. (Spoiler Alert: It’s worth noting, early on, who grabs the Mask of Comedy and who the Mask of Tragedy when they’re fooling around at the ruins of a famous Greek theater.)
Let me caution you: Coogan and Brydon have been doing these movies, adapted from a longer BBC series, for quite some time. Their dueling Michael Caines from the first film became such a local phenomenon that they performed it at the Royal Albert and Victoria Hall (with Caine in attendance).
Which is to say, Coogan and Brydon are going to keep on doing what they do, and if you can’t/don’t/won’t get on their wavelength, then “The Trip to Greece” is not for you.
But if envisioning the Ottoman Empire as a discount furniture store or Laurel and Hardy as Stan Laurel and TomHardy in his villainous Batman incarnation, well, this trip may be the one for you. And since we can’t go anywhere anyway….
One can stream “The Trip to Greece,” released in 2020, on Amazon Prime and YouTube.
Note to readers: Greece will reopen to tourists on June 15 – but only if they fly through Athens.