There are few pleasures more simple or satisfying in this life than a great meal with great company. It's with that fact in mind that we again find comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan bouncing from one tantalising meal to the next in the third installment of Michael Winterbottom's gastro-comedy series The Trip.
Beginning in 2010, the original Trip was a 'best of' that drew from Winterbottom's six-part series for the BBC in which Brydon and Coogan travelled the UK's Lake District 'reviewing' restaurants for their respective publishers. It featured a threadbare fictional storyline that served only to place these two astoundingly witty and sardonic impressionists opposite one another – verbal sparring partners forever determined to fell the other with a devastating barb. The result was a delightful laugh-out-loud comedy that never once threatened to veer towards the gross-out or foul-mouthed gags so common in contemporary Hollywood comedies.
The first film's success spawned a sequel, The Trip to Italy, four years later. Now we're greeted with the third course in The Trip to Spain. It's all very much business as usual, with close-ups of mouth-watering food porn breaking up the otherwise largely static shots of Coogan and Brydon facing off against one another, backed by breathtaking scenery and captivating architecture. There's a little history thrown in throughout the film, as well as the occasional food review, but at its heart The Trip to Spain knows where the gold lies and it rarely strays far from the path.
Some of you may already be familiar with the common personality quiz question that asks what two people you'd most like to have over for a dinner party. If nothing else, you'd be hard pressed to find a better return on investment than Brydon and Coogan, given how effortlessly the two become 20. Many of the same impersonations from the first two movies return here, including Al Pacino, Michael Caine and Roger Moore. But it's the new entries – David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Sir Anthony Hopkins – that earn the biggest laughs. That these impressions are so often inspired by real life encounters or precious personal moments with their subjects gives what might otherwise feel like a tired parlour trick a critical grounding in tenderness – especially in the case of the Bowie exchange.
If there's a complaint to be made this time round, it's that the fictional storyline brings the film to a close on a note that's both abrupt and rather bizarre. The likelihood of another follow-up seems assured given the left-field cliffhanger, but it's so at odds with the class and character of the series that one almost wishes the fictional narrative could be dispensed with entirely. Either that, or shift away from the episodic format of television and become an out-and-out film series. We'll just have to wait and see. For now, at least, we've got some more sumptuous comedy to enjoy, along with course after course of delicious food to match.