It's hard not to enjoy a film that features sailing sequences along the lush Italian coast with Richard Strauss' spectacularly beautiful "Im Abendrot" on the soundtrack. And for the most part, the latest Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon improvisational riff is likable stuff. But despite an early reference to "The Godfather, Part 2" - the implication being that this culinary foray could be as good, or better, than the duo's 2011 film "The Trip" - the sequel falls a bit short.
The previous work, in which the pair of comic actors wandered the English countryside eating fancy food, staying at nice hotels, doing celebrity impersonations and generally coming to terms with mid-life angst, was a hilarious sleeper hit. So it's not surprising that they decided to do another film in the same vein and go to Italy, where the scenery is lusher, the women hotter and the food much, much better.
Since the template had been set in the first film, it's also no surprise that Coogan and Brydon spend a lot of time impersonating celebrities - everyone from Hugh Grant to Gore Vidal and Tom Hardy as Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises." They also riff on words like "affable" and "cumquat" and speculate on bizarre subject matter - like if they had to indulge in cannibalism, would Olympic track and field gold medalist Mo Farah be good to eat.
Along the way, we also learn that Coogan, who is divorced and trying to forge a better relationship with his son, has a career that is on hold, since his latest TV show has been canceled. And Brydon, who cheats on his wife with a British expat, announces he has been cast in a film directed by high profile auteur Michael Mann - which elicits serious jealousy on Coogan's part.
As they travel around Liguria, Toscana, Campana and other verdant locations, the pair chatter away and bicker like an old married couple. And there's no doubt that some of this is brilliantly funny stuff, the kind of erudite humor you don't get from American comics. But after a while you wish they'd just shut up and enjoy the scenery. That's especially true for Brydon, who seems to be "on" all the time, even while he's by himself - visiting the ruins of Pompeii, he actually gets into a "conversation" with a mummified victim of the disaster enclosed in a glass case.
Don't get me wrong. Guys like this, who can improvise brilliantly, read Byron and Shelley and recite the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech from "Hamlet" at the drop of a hat, are a rare commodity. Given that, you wish they'd challenged themselves a bit more with this film, and not gone the "if it worked once, let's do it again" route. Since we're referencing pop culture icons here, let me quote B.B. King and say, when it comes to "The Trip to Italy" - "The Thrill Is Gone."