Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson, Dolya Gavanski
Released: June 30, 2011
Grade: B

There are many different ways to make a movie.  Never has that been more evident when you look at this week’s cinema releases in Australia.  The big drawcards will be Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and Mr Popper’s Penguins – two Hollywood blockbusters making the most of their special effects budget.  We also have Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life – a fragmented film with no traditional narrative and very little dialogue.

The fourth and final movie out this week is The Trip.  It started out as a 6-episode television series in the UK.  It followed comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they went on a road trip to sample the country’s finest restaurants.  Most of it revolved around them eating food, making jokes and doing impressions.

It’s a series that hasn’t gone directly to our own television screens here in Australia.  Rather, it’s taken a slight detour and found itself in our local cinemas.  Director Michael Winterbottom trimmed just over an hour from the series and wove the remaining footage into a 107 minute feature film.  Catching me off guard was the lack of a closing credit sequence.  The movie ended, the lights came on and it was suddenly time to go home.

Judging from the audience’s reaction at my preview, The Trip is light and easy to watch.  It won’t blow you away but you’re likely to leave the theatre in a better mood than when you arrived.  Coogan and Brydon are two gifted comedians who work very well alongside each other.  Much of their dialogue was improvised – a fact that you’ll pick up from the very start.

Whilst I’m giving the film a mild recommendation, I admit that it lacks substance.  These two guys may be funny but there’s only so long that you can watch them do imitations of famous actors.  I can see this working as a television series (where you only watch 30 minutes at a time) but it feels a little repetitive when watching it for two hours.

There’s also a weak subplot involving Coogan and his quest to find a decent acting role.  His agent in the United States has landed him the starring gig in a new television series but Coogan isn’t sure that he wants to leave his home in London.  This storyline is woefully underdeveloped and I found it hard to sympathise with Coogan as he mulled over his decision in the final scenes.

I will say this to the film’s credit – it made me want to eat!  Seeing inside these restaurants and watching Coogan and Brydon devour these beautifully presented meals left me salivating.  If you are going to check this out with friends over the weekend, I’d suggest that dinner reservations may also be required.