Film Review: "The Trip to Italy" 

Food for thought

In 2010's "The Trip," British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon played slightly fictionalized versions of themselves (Coogan, the philandering gadabout and Brydon, the happily married family man) on a road trip tour across the Northern English countryside, engaging in humorous conversations -- and dueling Michael Caine impressions -- while reviewing high-end restaurants for The Observer.

Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, the project aired as a BBC television miniseries, but was condensed into a single film for American audiences. The film mainly functioned as an excuse for the two funnymen to riff off one another in a perpetual game of comedic one-upmanship while gorging themselves on plate after plate of mouthwatering food. The result was a combination of comedy, travelogue, and food porn, and watching it was just as enjoyable as that description implies. Now comes the sequel, "The Trip to Italy," which sees the men taking a similar tour through (obviously) Italy, cruising around the country to the sounds of Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" (the only music the men brought with them), and while the film doesn't mess with the formula too much, even more of the same makes for worthwhile entertainment.

The roles of the two men are slightly reversed this time around: Brydon enjoys an upswing in his career, landing an audition for the latest Michael Mann film and engaging in an extramarital affair with a pretty tour guide, while Coogan frets over his fractured relationship with his teenage son. As with the first film, "The Trip to Italy" balances inspired silliness (among the best is an extended improvisation imagining of how a crew member might have approached Christian Bale and Tom Hardy on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises" in order to explain to them that no one can understand a bloody word they're saying) with quieter, bittersweet moments as the men admit their constant apprehensions about aging, their careers and the legacy they'll leave behind.

Winterbottom isn't afraid to let Coogan and Brydon be unlikeable -- they frequently come across as obnoxious buffoons -- yet they somehow remain sympathetic, their many faults allowing them to feel utterly human. We still care about what happens to them. The balance of light with a touch of darkness makes "The Trip to Italy" a bit meatier than it otherwise might have been, though it never strays too far from its main purpose of being hilarious. I'd even be up for more adventures from Brydon and Coogan, confronting their middle-aged anxieties and jaunting off in search of the next great culinary delight.

Coming Attractions

This Friday marks the opening night of the 1st Annual Rochester Recovery Film Festival. Under the guidance of Festival Director David Attridge, the event will present a diverse selection of narrative features, documentary films, and shorts, all with a focus on educating and raising awareness about the disease of addiction.

Held on the MCC campus, the festival kicks off Friday morning at 10 a.m. with a Recovery Career Fair, which is open to the general public. A movie theater-themed Opening Night party will follow, leading up the first night's lineup of films, consisting of the faith-based indie drama "King's Faith" at 7 p.m., followed by the short film "Rock Bottom," and the feature documentary "Cocaine Cowboys." Film screenings will continue throughout the weekend. The Rochester Recovery Film Festival runs through Sunday, September 14, and will conclude with an award presentation honoring legendary rock musician (and Rochester native) Lou Gramm and journalist Scott Pitoniak.

Weekend passes and individual day passes can be purchased through the festival's website, at, where you can also find a full schedule of the weekend's events.

Also on Friday, the Little Theatre is teaming up with local independent record label Strange Disc Records to host a one-time only showing of the cult-classic B-movie "Surf Nazis Must Die" in a glorious 35mm film presentation. The screening celebrates the debut of the film's previously unreleased score in a brand-new vinyl release. The album is the first release from Strange Disc Records, who specialize in film soundtracks and related material.

"Surf Nazis Must Die" is set in a post-apocalyptic California where gangs of Neo-Nazi surf punks control the coasts. When an innocent man is murdered by the beachside fiends, his gun-toting grandmother breaks out of her nursing home in order to exact her bloody revenge. Yes, it's just about as nutty as it sounds. Despite the dubious quality of the film itself, it's developed of passionate fan-base since its release in 1987, and composer Jon McCallum's synth-heavy score is a frequently mentioned as a film highlight.

"Surf Nazis Must Die" will screen Friday, September 12, 9:30 p.m. Tickets to the film will cost $8, and copies of the record, along with limited edition posters, will be available for purchase at the screening.

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