The Trip to Spain focuses far too much on revisiting highlights and fan favorites rather than developing new side stories.
Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom happened on a great idea when they pitched The Trip. Originally a TV series that was cut down to feature length, the project spawned subsequent series The Trip to Italy and, now, The Trip to Spain. This third installment, however, brings nothing new to the table nor distinguishes itself from the other films. Within the first two minutes, Brydon is whipping out his Al Pacino impression, continuing to do so throughout. This series is predicated on food snobbery, midlife crises and fantastic impressions. Although the duo of Coogan and Brydon – portraying comically exaggerated versions of themselves – go on a new adventure with every film, their experiences ironically are always the same. There is humorously satirical commentary in that. But The Trip to Spain lacks an engaged awareness of this redundancy and fails to make the film’s differences meaningful.
The plot of this trip is minimal, to say the least. Steve is in the process of writing a book and, as always, he’s dealing with women and career problems. Rob mentions something about restaurant reviews, clearly a gig that grew out of their restaurant-road trip articles. It hardly matters since the film barrels through any introduction of the reason for this trip and jumps straight into Spanish dining. Despite the new setting, we stick to the staples: car singalongs; Sean Connery and Michael Caine impressions; Coogan hitting on the magazine photographer and various hotel staff. In fact, the duo’s first meal invariably devolves into a pissing contest of Michael Caine impressions because, while they enjoy witty banter, there is always this underlying competition between comedians at play. The last dining scene of the film also devolves into shouting Caine’s lines from Get Carter, replicating almost exactly a scene from the first film.
However, this time around not much happens away from a dining table. Coogan and Brydon have, however, added sequences where they improvise a scene, frequently involving Brydon’s Pacino impression (because Spain = The Godfather?). At one point, they play-act James Bond and accompanying villain, pretending one plate of scallops has been secretly poisoned. Their Roger Moore bit drags on and on, losing what little humor it had in the first place. There’s charm in the childish enjoyment of turning everything into a story, a game and assuming the mantle of classic movie heroes and villains. But that charm wears thin when it never goes deeper. There’s enough drama in Coogan’s life to engage with, but this time around the film is content to present just enough information outside of the trip itself so that the entirety of the nearly two-hour film isn’t just jokes. Coogan is still chasing Mischa (Margo Stilley), from The Trip to Italy, even though she is now married. And his son, who was supposed to join him in southern Spain, has knocked up his girlfriend. None of this really affects Coogan’s enjoyment of the trip or willingness to trade banalities with Brydon.
Cutting these series down from six episodes into one feature-length film certainly denies film audiences some of the surrounding narrative, but that excuse only goes so far. As presented in this version, The Trip to Spain focuses far too much on revisiting highlights and fan favorites rather than developing new side stories. This installment is particularly guilty of rehashing tired material throughout, only to provide the perfect segue into yyet another sequel in the final few minutes. All in all, you would be better off revisiting the first film.