British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon follow up "The Trip" and "The Trip to Italy" with a third installment of one of the strangest franchises currently going. "The Trip to Spain" finds the two men on (as the title suggests) an odyssey through Spain as they once again dine on mouth-watering food in some of the country's finest restaurants, tour through obnoxiously picturesque scenery, and engage in a bit of delightfully droll banter. It's all more of the same, but when the material is as good as this that's hardly a complaint.
Leaving his wife and two young children back at home, Brydon jumps at the chance for some time away from a screaming infant. Meanwhile the still single Coogan realizes somewhere along the way that he might be in love with his married ex-girlfriend. Ever looking backward, he decides to write a memoir that will retrace the steps of a previous journey he took when he was 18.
As before, the comedians play semi-fictionalized versions of themselves, and returning director Michael Winterbottom uses the characters to poke fun at the men's large but impressively frail egos. All three films have functioned as explorations of male friendship, with professional rivalry and the never-ending game of one-up-manship constantly threatening to overtake the clear sense of affection the pair have for one another. They do occasionally find common ground, for example, over the joys of "life-affirming" butter and deciding that age 50 is really the male sweet spot.
Their conversations are peppered with anxieties over middle age, fatherhood, and diverging career paths. Coogan takes any opportunity to reference his "Philomena" Oscar nominations into the conversation, though he's also battling some wounded pride when he learns that the studio is bringing a hot, young, up-and-coming writer for "a polish" on his work.
Coogan and Brydon's rapport still shines, and their dueling impressions are once again the stars of the show. While their Michael Caines make the expected appearance, it's Mike Jagger who emerges at the true star this time. "The Trip to Spain" isn't out to reinvent the wheel, but there's plenty of pleasures to be found in this helping of cinematic comfort food.