I’m going to hate writing this piece because, broadly, I like all the films in this series: The Trip, The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain, and now, The Trip to Greece. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan playing slightly tweaked versions of themselves, in exotic locations, eating great food at nice restaurants, and having bizarre conversations with each other, is my idea of perfect comfort television, if the truth be told.
But what a game of diminishing returns the series is. Whether you watch these as movies or six-part television series (which is why for the first time on this site, I’ve actually ticked two category boxes), the effect is the same and what felt really fresh and un-scripted in the first film feels a lot more scripted and played out by the time the guys are zipping across Greece, in the steps of Odysseus.
A huge case in point is the death of Coogan’s father. In real life, Coogan’s father died in 2018. In The Trip to Greece, his death is played out as part of a highly scripted story, as though it was looming when Coogan went away on the trip and then, surprise, in the final episode Coogan gets the call that it’s happened and he goes home, to lots of sad scenes with “family”. Brydon, meanwhile, is left to swim in the sun with his “wife” in Greece and these two guys, who we’ve followed around Europe, are separated for the close of what’s said to be their final trip together. Huh? For the sake of Coogan doing some sad scenes which don’t need to be there – and make the film feel like a film, rather than just two blokes just driving around and having unscripted fun – the whole feel of the series takes a nosedive.
I get that in past movies, there was always some sort of melancholy or poignant moment which were clearly scripted (in the second film, Brydon has an affair which wasn’t real despite what some viewers thought they were seeing), but this really takes the concept and milks it until it turns into cheese. And yes, I get the weird dream sequences, and references to Greek mythology that are all through this film are part of it but… frankly, it didn’t work for me. My gold standard in this series is the first film which, although certainly scripted, has the feel of what I mentioned earlier: two blokes go driving around, trying to one-up one another with Michael Caine impressions, and say bitchy things to each other.
There are plenty of times in this film where the guys are at an interesting location, but we hardly see any of it because the emphasis seems to be on following what the script needs them to be doing, rather than just riffing on where they are and really enjoying the moment; wherever it might be.
All of that said, I like this series of films. I could re-watch any of them, any time. It’s comfortable – and sometimes very funny – viewing. Even this recent one. But it needs to be said that, as the films progress, I just have that nagging feeling that each successive film tries to escape doing “more of the same” by adding stuff that doesn’t need to be there and The Trip to Greece is perhaps the worst culprit of them all, especially the stuff about Coogan’s father. It’s good that the series ends here because it’s getting way too confused between whether it’s meant to be a fun mockumentary series, or whether it’s going for something more dramatic and deep. It feels very schizophrenic at times.