Are routines boring or comforting? That depends on the routine. At any other time, The Trip to Greece, the fourth and final installment of the Trip series of movies featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and directed by Michael Winterbottom (and adapted from a BBC TV series), might seem extraneous. Do we really need to see any more of Coogan and Brydon trading impersonations, wrestling with life crises and generally driving each other nuts?
But at a time when international travel is close to impossible—and laughs are in short supply too—The Trip to Greece is just what Hippocrates ordered. Once again playing fictional versions of themselves, Coogan and Brydon pack their bags and head off for a six-day jaunt in which they follow in the footsteps of Odysseus, or at least some of them. They sing Gregorian chants as they drift through the Caves of Diros; they make mildly off-color wisecracks as they gaze out at the island of Lesbos; and they eat at numerous enticing-looking island restaurants, generally with the azure sea twinkling behind them. As always, Winterbottom punctuates their antics with behind-the-scenes kitchen shots: pinky-white shrimp sizzle in a hot pan; a fancy something-or-other is set dramatically aflame before being plated. If you’ve seen any of the other films, beginning with the series’ 2010 debut, The Trip, you know the routine.
Yet Coogan and Brydon manage to keep their ongoing battle of the barbs from going stale. As they drive through winding, idyllic roads, Coogan melodramatically accuses his friend of being a philistine who has remained blissfully ignorant of classical Greek literature, even as Brydon taunts him with a spirited rendition of the Bee Gees’ theme from Grease. Over lunch the duo re-enact, with vigor, the dental-torture scene from Marathon Man. (Brydon does a mean dental-drill impersonation.) It’s all so silly. But it’s also kind of great, like a single glass of sparkling wine after a really bad day. And the light dancing off the brilliant blue sea isn’t so bad, either.