Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Trip to Italy' Stuffed with Tedious Banter

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Trip to Italy' Stuffed with Tedious Banter

Article excerpt

They've taken their act on the international road, but they're not quite the new Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

They're Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the popular British comic- improv team who took "The Trip" (2010) through England's north country to sample the fabulous food of its country inns. That was a condensed feature-film version of the dynamic dysfunctional duo's six-part BBC sitcom series. The first inn on their itinerary was overbooked and had only one room left with a single bed.

"Are you going to touch my bottom?" Steve asks. "Were you abused as an altar boy?"

"Only verbally," Rob replied.

Now, they're on a similarly problematic gourmet tour through Liguria, Tuscany, Amalfi and Capri -- and relying on a similar cinematic recipe: All situations serve as springboards for their fast-and-furious word games and impression competitions. They reprise their dueling Michael Caine and Al Pacino impersonations from the previous "Trip," while shifting their pretentious literary focus from Coleridge (Rob doing "Xanadu" in the voice of Richard Burton!) to Byron ("Childe Harold").

Best of the lot here is the rival Robert De Niro attempts, and the Gore Vidal ("It's not enough for me to succeed -- my friends must fail.") But they're in need of something newer.

Along the way, on the semi-serious side, they romance the hotel help but derive little satisfaction from their conquests, sidetracked as always by nagging cell phone calls and superficial voice mails to and from home. "There was a time when I could make eye contact with a girl, and she'd smile back," Steve laments, after Skyping with his bored adolescent son. His depression is not improved by Rob's random ruminations:

"Did you ever think that one day you'll be on a slab and they'll be embalming you, and you'll be naked and somebody will be dressing you?"

The rarefied conversation between these existential exiles in Italy reaches its nadir at a museum of petrified Vesuvius victims. Macabre, and truly un-funny. Some things perhaps shouldn't be joked about -- including the Holocaust-like eruption that killed and captured a city and everyone in it in formaldehyde.

"Trip to Italy" presumes -- no, desperately relies on -- foreknowledge of and fore-affection for its two characters and their interpersonal issues. …

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