Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s “The Trip” franchise continues with its third installment, THE TRIP TO SPAIN. For those that have been with these guys since 2010, THE TRIP TO SPAIN should slip in nicely to a franchise that’s the very anti-blockbuster. The cast doesn’t expand, the budget doesn’t get bigger and nothing really changes apart from the locations. The films work because of the dialogue exchanges between Coogan and Brydon and essentially, that’s what the films are based on.
For those new to the series, Steve and Rob play themselves in the series which features them taking trips to visit restaurants and then write about their adventure. The line between reality and make believe is blurred since they’re playing themselves, which makes the film more appealing. In THE TRIP TO SPAIN, it feels like Steve’s ego is getting bigger while Rob is getting more unsatisfied at home, fueling a growing division between the two.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with THE TRIP TO SPAIN. In fact, it’s more of the same from Steve and Rob and that’s going to be more than enough to please fans that have been with them from the beginning. My issue with the film is more with the direction they’re taking their relationship. The second film started laying seeds of discourse between Steve and Rob, but the third film shows a full divide. Steve is more conceited and self-centered while Rob is more oblivious and almost depressed. It feels like these two are sick of each other as opposed to trying to reconnect after years of not seeing the other. The other issue is that their conversations aren’t as funny or as interesting compared to the first two films, which means the audience is less invested in them.
Part of the divide between them stems from them getting on each other’s nerves. Rob’s impressions are out of control, annoying everyone around him, including the audience. There’s a scene where Rob is impersonating Roger Moore that goes on too long and as Steve’s frustrations grow, so does the audience. This kind of agitation is common among friends and it definitely works to show their deteriorating friendship, but it’s also an example of how the film has become less enjoyable. There’s another good scene where they encounter a guitar-playing young man that makes several restaurant suggestions to the duo, only to frustrate Steve to the point where he leaves, earning the explanation that Steve doesn’t like to be told things he thinks he knows. These kind of scenes were too common in THE TRIP TO SPAIN.
Like THE TRIP TO ITALY, THE TRIP TO SPAIN is beautifully shot and the genuineness of the film makes the audience feel like they’re actually there with Steve and Rob. Spain is less about food than the first two films, but there’s always food around, thus justifying their adventure. We also get plenty of facts about the country they’re visiting, always sandwiched between jokes or gags on the other. The food, the sights, the banter and especially the friendship are the ingredients that make ‘The Trip’ franchise work, it just felt at times THE TRIP TO SPAIN didn’t give us enough of them.