Skip’s Quips: Help! My Ears Got Punished During ‘The Trip to Italy’

Blog Sketch 082813Who doesn’t like movies about a couple of guys taking a trip to Italy to dine at fancy restaurants while doing interminable impersonations of assorted celebrities?

I don’t. And consequently, I didn’t care for Michael Winterbottom’s disastrously unfunny The Trip to Italy at all.

I wasn’t a big fan of The Trip, the film’s picaresque predecessor, but at least the concept, which involved Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing impressions during meals at various restaurants in England, was somewhat novel at the time. Its sequel, however, is not so lucky. In fact, many of the impersonations (Michael Caine, Al Pacino) seem to be rehashed from the original film, leaving the viewer wondering if they have anything actually new up their sleeves to bring to the table.

It’s quite an awkward mix, this picture, what with the “comedy” (basically Coogan and Brydon talking over each other without offering much context) juxtaposed with shots of food and Italian landscapes … though the cuisine and scenery seem to be extraneous, playing second fiddle to the duo’s tedious, presumably improvised schtick.

I’m sorry, but I like my comedy cooked throughout, not half-baked. And The Trip to Italy is so underdone it’s raw.

One of the biggest problems with the flick is that it’s not cinematic. It’s a collection of episodes punctuated by flat humor and pseudo-philosophical asides. You’d be hard pressed to find another picture in recent years that dwells so much on quotes provided by Shelley and Byron. But you’d also be hard-pressed to find one that trivializes their work so frustratingly by making fleeting references to them and not following up with any further insight. That’s pretentious, fellow viewers, and makes for problematic movie-watching. I like my Shelley and Byron well-done, too. Not the way The Trip to Italy cooks them up.

I’m not sure what the market is for this kind of thing; it can’t be too large. It’s definitely not my kind of comedy. All I can say is I hope a third installment isn’t in the works. Making this series into a trilogy would just be too much cinematically to bear.

Skip’s Quips: Favreau’s ‘Chef’ Fantasy Lingers Long on the Palate

Blog Sketch 082813There’s a lot of good stuff in Jon Favreau’s culinarily driven film Chef, which documents the fall and rise of a famed toque-meister (portrayed by Favreau himself) as he journeys from restaurant to food truck. But realistic it is not.

I enjoyed it … to a certain extent. It’s breezy, amusing, touching at times. The characters are likable. The food looks, well, tasty.

It’s a fantasy, however, and doesn’t ring true on many levels. The protagonist, a divorced dad who connects with his son through food, has this only-in-the-movies relationship with his kid, who is just plain worshipful, agreeing to clean his truck with little complaint and nearly jumping at the chance to “help” his pop as a line cook after school and on weekends. An offer you can’t refuse, right? If I were his child, I’d be asking for overtime.

Then there’s the colleague, deftly played by John Leguizamo, who joins Favreau’s character on his food truck for no pay after leaving his job as a sous chef at a high-end restaurant. Really? This is loyalty going a little far. Plus, the truck is shown as becoming an immediate success, which is also hard to believe. This is a tough business. It’s difficult to make money right away.

So the picture strains credibility at times. It also overstays its welcome; a lot of the final act could’ve ended up on the cutting-room floor. And everything wraps up all too neatly; yes, it’s a feel-good type of flick, but the Dickensian way everything falls in place is just a little too easy. It’s pleasant, yes, Believable, no.

All in all, Chef has too many issues to be called a great film. If you want a fun science-fiction movie about the trials and travails of being a chef, this is a good option. It’s just not what I perceive to be a realistic document of one man’s adventure in the profession.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: A Taste of ‘The Lunchbox’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I have to write a little about The Lunchbox before I finish it.

It’s really a fine film. I thought I was going to be frustrated with it. Boy, was I wrong.

Watched about a third last night; had to stop it because I was tired. But it was enthralling. Beautiful cinematography. Great sound. And a simple but touching story (two people in Mumbai get their lunchboxes mixed up and start writing notes to each other). I’m hoping to see the rest of it tonight.

It’s further proof that a movie doesn’t have to have a complicated plot or flashy editing to be enjoyable. It can be deliberately paced, like The Lunchbox is. The conflict can be minimal. The characters may be few. And yet, the flick can be as powerful as any one with a cast of thousands.

It only helps that this film, which is tangentially about food, made me hungry. Hopefully, I’ll have at least a bite to eat before I complete it this evening.

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