The fourth and final installment in director Michael Winterbottom‘s “Trip” series, “The Trip to Greece,” reunites its stars and the structured formula that has carried the series. This time, in addition to the goofy impersonations, the Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants, and driving around the countryside for a week, there’s a melancholy feeling of loneliness and regret that lends a fitting, if sad, end to Rob (Rob Brydon) and Steve’s (Steve Coogan ) adventures.
The set up is the same as the previous films, but with a new locale. Actors Brydon and Coogan, playing exaggerated versions of themselves, travel from Troy to Ithaca following in the footsteps of Odysseus. These two are friends, but not exactly besties. They’re both kind of jerks, and there’s an underlying tension that neither of these men truly, deeply, genuinely like each other.
They were thrust together years ago when Steve was assigned by a newspaper to travel the English countryside and write about fine dining establishments. After his girlfriend backed out (2010’s “The Trip”), Rob stepped in. In part one of their fictional story, they would eat, drink, and try not to kill each other. Not much has changed a decade later.
There are two types of reactions a viewer will have to these films (which are basically two hours of intellectual know-it-alls bickering about everything from Greek poets to Dustin Hoffman movies while sightseeing and eating five-star cuisine in gorgeous locales). You’ll either find the duo amusing or insufferable, and here the extended riffs wear thin. The audience for these films are well read, well traveled, and well versed in cinema, literature, food, history, and the arts. Even so, spending two hours with these men is a big ask for many. At one point, Rob calls Steve a “conceited ass,” which hits the nail on the head.
There’s an indifference to this film that’s disappointing. Food is described in great detail, but there aren’t a lot of salivating foodie shots. There isn’t a lot of beautiful scenery, either. This is a more somber outing as the pair embark on their own personal Odyssey, with themes of regret and self-disappointment mirroring the idea of someone taking a long journey as a way of finally going back home.
It feels a little lazy when contrived plot elements are thrown in like the death of a father or Steve’s son feeling abandoned and constantly searching for his dad via phone, but the bittersweet melancholy in returning to the comforts of home after a lifetime of adventures is the perfect note on which to end the quartet of films.