Director: Michael Winterbottom
Anyone who watched British TV in the 1970’s will recollect, quite possibly without much in the way of merriment, Mike Yarwood, the comic impressionist who furnished the nation with the type of broad stroke characterisations that tended to appeal to pissed up blokes in pubs and tragically, David Brent; Denis ‘Silly Billy’ Healy, Frank ‘the cat did a woopsie in my beret’ Spencer and various others who all seemed to be somehow analogous. At the end of his show, Mike would turn to the camera mid routine, ditch Robin Day or Eddie Waring, smile his toothy Ted Heath smile and tell us, his enraptured public, ‘and this is me’. In our house at least, the phrase was a signal – the jokes(?) were over and it was time to put the kettle on.
What does this have to do with ‘The Trip to Spain’? Well, not much. Both Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon made their funny bones as impressionists, though I’m sure they believe that’s the least of their talents and although they play ‘themselves’ here, it’s crucial to attach the apostrophes since, as in numerous comedy ventures going back as far as The George Burns Show, these are, quite deliberately and just a little bit too manifestly, ‘exaggerated versions’. ‘This is me’, said Mike Yarwood. ‘This definitely isn’t really us’, counter Steve and Rob.
I won’t spend a lot of time on the plot since there isn’t one. ‘Steve’, just back from New York where he’s desperately trying to maintain his rep as the hottest talent in the biz rings up ‘Rob’ who’s currently living a life of domestic bliss with an angelic, accommodating woman who bats not an eyelid when he blithely announces he’s off for a boy’s week in Spain and she can deal with the kids and the impending builders. To help the story along there’s a suggestion that ‘Rob’ is writing a newspaper foodie column whilst ‘Steve’ does some research for a memoir he’s considering writing but feel free to forget all that, it’s not really important and in ‘Rob’s’ case, is never mentioned again anyway. There’s almost no writing going on at all here, essentially this is ‘Steve and ‘Rob’ touring Spain in a Range Rover, eating at fancy restaurants, staying at expensive hotels – castles in some cases – and doing a lot of impersonations.
The voices are good – and funny – well, funny-ish, but they don’t half go on. ‘Steve’ competitive, vaguely insecure and restless, continually tries to out-do ‘Rob’, easy-going, centred and impressively tolerant of ‘Steve’ telling him how how he should be doing them and that his voices are always better. More rounded. Fuller. He ‘s an actor you see. Like Olivier. ‘He was a better actor than you’, says ‘Rob’. ‘A different actor’, retorts ‘Steve’.
Most of the time, to be fair to him – not altogether all that easy – ‘Steve’ is right. He does a better Jagger, a much better John Hurt and a marginally improved Bowie. On the other hand, ‘Rob’s’ Antony Hopkins wins and he absolutely takes home the plaudits when it comes to Roger Moore, if only because he quite literally refuses to stop doing him, even when his audience, two younger women they’re both, somewhat embarrassingly trying to impress, resignedly plead for it to cease. It’s sort of funny. At first, anyway.
In the midst of all of this, there’s a genuinely chucklesome and nostalgic Radio 2 type exchange between ‘Rob’ as Ken Bruce and ‘Steve’ as Wogan which, for me anyway, was the highlight of the entire movie. It lasts for about a minute, which I suppose says it all about how much I liked the film. 3 times longer than it should be. At least.
There’s the scenery of course, which looks great, but not as good as the real thing, which you could also say about the food and the impersonations although, of the three, the impressions probably come closest.
In a vain and unsuccessful attempt to disguise what is clearly a travelogue, some moments of pathos and drama are loaded into the mix, particularly with ‘Steve’s’ character, but it’s clunky and feels very much bolted on as an afterthought, with the ending in Morocco having what looked to me, even though I really didn’t want to consider it, a potential sequel look about it.
Due to a scheduling error, I saw The Trip to Spain twice, which was one and three quarters times too many. I’ll be avoiding it from now on.
And that, er, was me.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
Other people’s holiday snaps. Other people’s holiday meals. Other people’s holidays.