Within the opening minutes, The Trip To Greece is pretty much up front that it is now the fourth installment of the comedic faux-documentary series and that things will be pretty much the way they have been in the past three films starting with 2010’s The Trip. When one gets to a certain age, muse British comics Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves, originality is revealed to be overrated and that “everything is derivative of something.”
And indeed this installment is more of the Trip franchise’s patented blend of travelogue, food porn and comedic riffs of My Dinner With Andre as Coogan and Brudon retrace the ten year journey as told in Homer’s The Odyssey, stopping along the way at a variety of high-end restaurants. Although this latest installment skips the prologue that sets up the franchise’s celebrity-as-travel writers conceit and just starts with Coogan and Brydon on their first day abroad, the film does mostly conform to the model we have come to expect. The pair spend a week driving through the countryside trying to one-up each other with jokes and impersonations all the while eating gourmet meals. As usual, their editor Emma (Claire Keelan) pops in for a day along with photographer Yolanda (Maria Barrio) to get some pictures to accompany the article the two are presumably working on. In a time when people have not been able to go out and meet up with friends for a good meal together, the film’s structure feels like cinematic comfort food.
The Trip To Greece opens in theaters and is available through VOD today. The series’ three previous installments – The Trip (2010), The Trip To Italy (2014) and The Trip To Spain (2017) – are available through IFC’s streaming site.
The Trip films have always had an undercurrent of melancholy to them as Coogan and Brydon discuss their various experiences with approaching middle-age, what they’ve accomplished with their lives and where they thought they would be. Lost youth is sometimes touched upon, and over the series each have had dalliances with younger women if only to reaffirm their own youthful virility and desirability.
But with The Trip To Greece that undercurrent is stronger. Part of that is due to Coogan’s concern over his elderly father’s ailing health, which takes a downturn as the two are starting out on their week-long trek. But part of that seems to be baked into the Grecian location itself. The Ancient Greeks kept their Mount Olympus-dwelling gods geographically close to them, as they did with their access to the afterlife, viz a viz the sea caves along the Mani Peninsula which the pair visit. This, of course, also serves as set up for a dream Coogan has about his father which allows Winterbottom to homage Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.
The film’s meditations on death are perhaps appropriate. According to Winterbottom, Coogan and Brydon, this is pretty much the last installment of the series for the foreseeable future. As noted at the start of the film, Coogan and Brydon have been going on these comedic culinary excursions for then years now – the same amount of time the travels in The Odyssey took, not so coincidentally. All journeys reach an end, but these films rem,ind us that it it isn’t the destination that counts so much, but the Trips themselves.