Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
Unless you’re a Steve Coogan fan, “The Trip,” a brilliant British buddy comedy from director Michael Winterbottom, probably is not on your summer radar, but it should be.
Coogan and Rob Brydon star as fictionalized versions of themselves — Brydon is the lesser known of the two in America, but you’ll probably recognize Coogan from his many indie movies roles or as the pompous director in “Tropic Thunder.”
When Coogan is hired by the U.K.’s Observer to write up a restaurant tour of the British countryside, he asks Brydon to be his travel companion and fellow food-taster.
Don’t let the film’s slow start deter you: Once the nuances of this competitive camaraderie emerge, you’re hooked. As in all good buddy comedies, Coogan and Brydon each have their flaws. Brydon can’t go a minute without putting on impressions (albeit terrific ones) of Hugh Grant, Robert De Niro, James Bond. His nonstop impersonating grates on Coogan — though, loath to be one-upped in anything, Coogan constantly counters with his own impersonations. At one point, the two engage in a delightfully prolonged showdown of Michael Caine mimicry.
Eventually, Coogan and Brydon’s bantering and bickering settle into an endearing rhythm, as conversations morph into hilarious, improvised riffs. Humor presides over every scene, though don’t go expecting pratfalls and obvious jokes a la “Due Date” — “The Trip” aims for understated comedy firmly grounded in reality. You’ll cringe, but you’ll laugh even more.