"The Trip to Italy," (Now on DVD) directed with some authorial input by Michael Winterbottom and starring comedians Steve Coogan as "Steve" and Rob Brydon as "Rob" who improvised their way around Italy, is essentially a "behind-the-scenes" view of a research trip for a travel article. Steve is on a writing assignment from the Observer to produce an article on Italian food. When Steve's girlfriend declines, his friend Rob agrees to accompany the writer on the adventure.
The film is "behind-the-scenes" because there is a comic dissociation from the ostensible intention: to write about the food. The videography is on point with luscious panoramas of Italian hill towns, dramatic vistas of the Amalfi Coast and most importantly kitchen scenes of chefs at their work followed by mouthwatering closeups of exquisitely plated dishes. Yet the two characters do not discuss the food except in the most off-handed and casual way. We never get a clue as to how Steve will approach the subject of his writing assignment.
The action is entirely occupied with the rolling dialogue between Steve and Rob on the road as they drive, waiting for a meal to be served, as they dine and when they stop at historical landmarks of the romantic poets. Neither the dialogue, nor the characters do much developing and in the end we forced to resign ourselves solely to eavesdropping on a meandering conversation between friends.
This film fills the "I don't have any witty friends available, so I'll hang out with these two guys for awhile," niche. And they are witty, sometimes. Then again there are times when one or the other just becomes annoying, or worse, tiresome. Early on Steve gets Rob to promise that he will not do impressions. Unfortunately, Rob doesn't keep the promise.
There are amusing conversational performances and interactions by Steve and Rob, but in the end I was glad I only had to endure the 115 minute film version of the weeklong road-trip. When the credits rolled, I was left with a sense of gratitude for my own friends.