The Trip to Italy

Known for making films that don’t resemble each other, director Michael Winterbottom tries a sequel to his quasi-fictive road movie The Trip, which had Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a tour of English restaurants and rich comedic rivalry. This Italian reprise sounds delicious, but can they top the dueling Michael Caine impressions? Well, they can at least acknowledge the folly of sequels right up front, before promptly launching into guffaw-inducing geek-out riffs on The Dark Knight Rises. Coogan and Brydon both understand that people who do impressions can be tiring, and vaguely bullying; without signposting it too much, they encourage us to remember that in this luxe vacation-dream of life-escape they’re also doing impressions of themselves, whose impulses toward ease and flattery will be duly met with sobering aggression. Which is all to say that neither its stars nor its director seem content to let The Trip to Italy lapse into mere glossy, funny travelogue. The fact of having organized their scenic amble around meals encourages real existential questions about appetite for life and related anxiety of mortality — made most explicit in a surprising and tonally delicate sequence at Pompeii. It just goes to show: Enjoy your weird vocal mashups of Al Pacino and Woody Allen while you can, for there is always the prospect of sudden volcanic annihilation.