So, this is the sequel to The Trip, a documentary from 2012 (or 2011?). The conceit is pretty simple; Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, a couple of British comedians, travel around eating at restaurants. It’s a road trip movie, essentially. Coogan and Brydon both play fictionalized versions of themselves; they’re both often really obnoxious to each other in a way that they probably aren’t in real life. They’re both comedians, of course, and they both seem to think they’re the funnier of the two, so the movie is really a game of comedic one-upmanship. The film is really ultimately, I think, about the difficulty of human connection and, in particular, the way these two characters stave off connection with each other and with other people through their comedic performances. As the film rolls on, it becomes darker and darker, really, as you see the existential isolation and loneliness of these two men. Finally, you begin to realize that they aren’t even comfortable with themselves. There’s a devastatingly dark scene where Rob Brydon is practicing telling his wife about a one-night stand he’s had on the trip and he ends up doing it as Dustin Hoffman; he can’t even live with himself and his own thoughts without a buffer. “Rob never recites poetry in his own voice,” Coogan says after Brydon recites a poem as Richard Burton, “He lacks the self-confidence.”
This isn’t to say the film isn’t funny. It is really funny, the journey to Pompeii is genuinely hilarious. Oh, I forgot to mention, they’re tooling round Italy in this one and the scenery is gorgeously filmed. Later, a riff on Hamlet in a cemetery turns into a really haunting moment of genuine connection between the two, a disturbing meditation on death that really has stayed with me in a powerful way. The film isn’t perfect. It’s too long by a good twenty minutes, I’d say. I’d cut a subplot about Rob trying to get a part in an American movie; it takes up about that much of the movie and there’s nothing either funny or insightful in those scenes. And occasionally the humor is a little too silly for me; British absurdity, you know. In particular, a scene about Tom Hardy on the set of The Dark Knight Rises isn’t funny at all and seems to go on forever. But, on the whole, it’s a really bleak comedy. The tone is pretty unique, I think, and the film actually gets deeply into these dark characters. On the whole, very good and I recommend it. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – While the film is certainly too long, Coogan & Brydon are fantastic in this mockumentary that is both existentially bleak and hilarious funny, occasionally at the same time. 3 ½ stars.