In “The Trip to Italy,” two friends take a trip to Italy. They eat at nice restaurants and stay in nice hotels. There is very little conflict. Then the credits roll on what might be the funniest movie of the year. (“22 Jump Street” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” were really funny, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t have trouble breathing because I was laughing so hard at those, and I know that happened multiple times with “The Trip to Italy.”)
British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, loosely playing themselves, have done this type of movie before — see 2010’s “The Trip,” which gets its own sort-of meta-ish riff early in the new film — but “Italy” digs a bit deeper and reflects with a bit more clarity the obvious friendship between the two men. And this kind of friendship is rare in contemporary movies.
If it’s tough to find a film that passes the Bechdel test (two women with names speak to each other once about something other than a man), it’s almost as difficult to find a movie with two men whose friendship is not based on getting laid, plotting a heist or fighting crime (or aliens. Or zombies.). I mean, Butch and Sundance are buddies, but you do get the feeling they probably wouldn’t hang out much if people weren’t shooting at them a lot. And they certainly wouldn’t spend time singing along to Alanis Morissette songs, as Coogan and Brydon do in the film’s funniest scenes.
Maybe there are so few movies about adult friends of any gender because, as you get older, it’s harder to BE friends beyond Facebook likes and text messages. You get jobs, you get married, you have kids, and suddenly getting together to get drunk and watch reruns of “Friends” takes Operation Overlord-like planning, when you used to call that “Thursday.” I still have close friends, of course, people who would and have moved heaven and earth to support me in a crisis, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I just chilled on one of their couches, or they on mine.
“The Trip to Italy” is in part about the shorthand that develops after a long relationship, particularly the kind that doesn’t have sex or children or a mortgage to hold it together. No one is mean or stupid, which Hollywood often views as synonyms for “funny.” Instead the film trusts (rightfully, it turns out) that an audience will want to spend time hanging out with two guys who clearly enjoy hanging out with each other.
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