This is not an easy film to categorize. A chatty food travelogue? A scenic Italian nosh with a side of improv? A scrumptious hangout-movie postcard? Sun, fun, and puns? Whatever. Comedic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, playing ever-so-slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, tool around Italy from northern Piemonte to Amalfi in a rented Mini, sampling top restaurants for The Observer. (The movie is preceded by 2010’s The Trip, which did the same thing for northern Britain, and a TV show of the same name.)
Director Michael Winterbottom has the sense to let his leads run with it, resulting in some surprisingly insightful, free-form comic riffs, and hilarious impersonations. Dueling Brandos, anyone? A Michael Caine-off? There’s a bit of token drama, but this is about the food, the scenery, just ambling about, and the world-class banter. I found it a fairly constant chuckle. An inspired running gag is that the car’s iPod jack doesn’t work, leaving them with the sole option of singing along with an Alanis Morissette CD they found in the glove box.
You’ll leave the theater feeling refreshed, entertained—and probably hungry. This one’s a trip and a half. Japanese title: Italia wa Yondeiru. (106 min)