Starring Steve Coogan. Rated PG
In which Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon continue their joint sojourn through the eateries of Europe, this time taking Coogan’s Range Rover from London to the coast of España and further south. Once again, this team of rivals is working on tasks relating to food and travel, with Coogan again positioning himself as the senior partner.
Actually, I should say that about Coogan’s character, as well as Brydon’s, who only happen to be named after the stars. The frequent references to Philomena and other past projects are real enough. But domestic scenes and phone calls with Brydon’s wife and young children, as well as Coogan’s current (and married) girlfriend, are invented, as is a subplot about Steve losing his agent and being asked to share his new script with an up-and-coming writer. “I’ve already up-and-come,” complains the two-time Oscar nominee.
These side stories add notes of middle-aged desperation to the comic artists, who spend much of their downtime with physical exercise, the better to stave off the effects of time and too much deliciousness. The rain in Spain has never looked better, thanks to silky direction by Michael Winterbottom—and this third installment is indeed compressed from the irregular Brit TV series, which they shoot on breaks from, say, the Despicable Me and Huntsman movies. (Breathtaking aerial shots, courtesy of first-time feature cinematographer James Clarke, make those Spanish castles magical, much like the sardines.)
The new film’s dramatic subplots add a melancholic edge, but they also detract slightly from the fun—which consists largely of these two snarky improvisers one-upping each other with stentorian impressions. In the best English tradition, this requires just as much respect for (and memory of) text as it does an ear for intonation. This time, we get not only duelling Michael Caines but more of Roger Moore, Anthony Hopkins, and Richard Burton (Brydon is Welsh, after all), as well as dead-on visits with David Bowie and Mick Jagger. In the real world, it might be a pain to keep hearing the voices in their heads, but for a roughly 100-minute journey, they are good company indeed.