Movie Review: The Trip to Greece (2020)

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First things first: Steve Coogan is okay. Last seen facing a cryptic and uncertain fate in North Africa at the end of the quixotic Trip to Spain, Coogan is alive and well and ready to impression battle another day with his offscreen friend/onscreen frenemy Rob Brydon in the fourth and final installment of director Michael Winterbottom's series, The Trip to Greece.

By design, of course, the structure remains the same. In each new eye-candy filled Trip, we watch in envy as the two actors indulge in six mouthwatering meals which take place in six out-of-this-world locations under the guise that they plan to write a book or article about their experience. However, as first evidenced saw in Winterbottom's brilliant sophomore entry The Trip to Italy and again in Spain and now Greece, the works are as singular as they are familiar.

Airing first in the UK as a miniseries before each venture is chopped down into the length of a film for distribution, the Trip titles, which pay tribute to the arts and culture synonymous with each setting, are much more than just picturesque travelogues for foodies.

Modeled on Homer's The Odyssey, just like its eponymous hero Odysseus took ten years to return home, The Trip to Greece finds precisely the right note upon which to end the series, especially given that — having started in 2010 — it's taken the screen exaggerated versions of Coogan and Brydon ten years to put away their suitcases and head home as well.

Cramming Odysseus' ten year journey into their six day trip from Troy to Ithaca, Greece layers in the dramatic themes of Homer's work — particularly with regard to mortality and a son's search for his father — into the film's otherwise, irresistibly funny trademark banter. Punctuated by many of the impressions we've seen in earlier entries as well as some wildly creative new material — Barry Gibb joins the party, Coogan and Brydon engage in dueling Dustin Hoffmans, and they fantasy cast Ray Winstone into Shakespeare — it's a great way to build on old gags while also giving us just enough surprises to ensure it isn't a straight up repeat.

Forever making me wonder just how on Earth anyone dining nearby doesn't immediately crack-up as they go from competitively trying to one-up the other man's impression to engaging in a friendly swim race since they are in the land that gave us the Olympics after all, Greece is as winning as it is thoughtful. And much like the other installments in the series, which has drawn worthwhile comparisons to Richard Linklater's Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, viewers hovering around middle age will unquestioningly relate to the topics and themes touched on throughout.

Gorgeously shot by veteran Trip lensman James Clarke, Greece is filled once again with the music of longtime Winterbottom collaborator Michael Nyman, whose introspective piano music from the original has become one of the series' richest motifs.

As a genuine fan, admittedly, I'm with Coogan and Brydon in hoping that one of my favorite film franchises will be revived in another decade or so (which kind of adheres to Before's schedule). However, if this is indeed the last hurrah, as series mastermind Michael Winterbottom believes it to be then — trapped halfway between comedy and tragedy, with both life and The Trip's Odyssey coming full circle — it's ending exactly the way it should. For whatever happens, this time you know that Coogan and Brydon will be okay and more than that, we're all the richer for having ventured along.

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