For women especially, it's wholly out of fashion to have sympathy for middle-aged, white men. The thinking goes, They've reigned supreme long enough. Who cares about their anxiety over their receding hairlines, their poochy stomachs, their inability to attract young babes? That tinny plink you hear, as they wail about their insecurities, is the sound of the world's tiniest violin. Yet, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the dueling stars first of Michael Winterbottom's 2010 The Trip -- in which the two kvetched and squabbled through an automobile journey crisscrossing the English countryside -- have restored some mojo to the classic middle-aged gent's lament.
Now, in The Trip to Italy, Coogan and Brydon -- again playing semi-improvisatory versions of themselves -- explore Italian coastal spots and cities, sampling meals from the finest restaurants, but again, pay only minimal attention to the food. The Trip to Italy is basically more of the same Trip -- with yet more picturesque scenery, more fretting about the horrors of getting older, more Michael Caine imitations -- only, the surprise factor has diminished. Now we know just what to expect from Coogan and Brydon, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. For some mystical reason that has to do less with reality than with the creation of fictional plots, Brydon and Coogan have again been sent out by a London newspaper to sample the culinary delights of a given locale.
Of course, most of the time Coogan and Brydon are cracking unapologetically puerile jokes. Winterbottom orchestrates it all beautifully, which is to say that he seems not to be orchestrating it at all -- his touch is wonderfully casual.