THE TRIP (M) Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Britain has developed something of a reputation for producing cracking comedy duos.
From Cook and Moore, Morecombe and Wise and French and Saunders to Reeves and Mortimer and the Two Ronnies, these mostly little and large combinations have used their differences to often hilarious effect.
Eclectic and ever-working director Michael Winterbottom uncovered another seam of rich comic genius when he paired up Wales' second-finest impressionist (acting chameleon Michael Sheen is surely the first), the affable Rob Brydon with lanky Lancastrian Steve Coogan, a man most famous for playing regional media personalities be they factual (Tony Wilson) or fictional (Alan Partridge), for his irreverent, post-post-modern 2006 take on Laurence Stern's "unfilmable" novel Tristram Shandy.
Known in Britain as A Cock And Bull Story, it was a critical and financially successful film, which centered mainly on the pair bickering as to who was the leading man. Realising that these two could start an argument over anything, with hilarious results, Winterbottom has reunited the pair for what is essentially a series of conversations, arguments and general one-man-upmanship over lunches.
In the ever so slightly fictional world of The Trip, Coogan has been asked by Britain's Observer newspaper to go on a six-stop restaurant tour of England's north. Originally he was supposed to take his gourmand American girlfriend Mischa, but they're taking time out, and with everyone else he's asked all too busy, Coogan reluctantly seeks out "colleague and sort of friend" Brydon to accompany him.
However, the bookings were all made before this change of plan and things get to off a bad start at the first port of call, the Whitewell Inn, when the pair discover there's only one room.
Pared down by more than an hour from a six-part BBC series, The Trip is delightful mix of fly on the wall reality and middle-age-angst-filled humour, anchored by two actors who appear to delight in the opportunity to carve out their own meaty roles.
When not trading barbs over their respective careers, lives and foibles, Coogan and Brydon are analysing ABBA lyrics, taking the mickey out of historic war movies, and, in a fantastic running gag, critiquing each other's impressions of acting luminaries like Caine, Pacino, Hopkins and Hoffman.
All along of course they also sample the sumptuous looking food, gorgeously shot by Winterbottom's crew who also offer brief glimpses into the food preparation in the various establishments' kitchens.
The boys' insights may not go down well with foodies ("it has a consistency a bit like snot, but it tastes wonderful," Brydon says of a soup), but they do help create a satisfying slice of entertainment out of what seems such a slim premise. Nouvelle filmmaking at its finest.