The Netflix Files: November 17, 2011

Steve Coogan, one of Britain’s most well-known comedians (primarily for giving career life to Alan Partridge, who I hadn’t heard of), never managed to make waves in the United States. His foray into Hollywood was a noble experiment, and you’ve probably seen him around in several high-profile supporting roles – as the Roman general figurine in Night At the Museum, the doomed director in Tropic Thunder and the corporate villain in The Other Guys. He even headlined two highly-marketed films, Around the World in 80 Days (which lost $70 million+ for Disney) and Hamlet 2 (an under-seen Sundance darling). Ultimately, Coogan failed to make an impact with American audiences. So, after hitting the bottom of the barrel with Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Marmaduke, he went back across the pond and made The Trip.

The Trip originally aired as a six-part series on BBC Two in 2010 and was later edited into a two-hour film for its U.S. release (and subsequent availability on Netflix Watch Instantly). It’s supposedly a sequel of sorts to Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (whatever the fuck that is), following fictionalized versions of Coogan and his friend Rob Brydon as they embark on a foodie tour of England. It was very well-reviewed, with a 97% among the Top Critics on RottenTomatoes.

The film operates without a script, relying on improvised banter and bickering between Coogan and Brydon. It’s dry, quiet and real, and often laugh-out-loud hilarious. Further, it functions as a surprisingly honest account of Coogan’s own insecurities, both personal and professional. As an added bonus, Ben Stiller makes a welcomed cameo in Coogan’s dream (is it just me, or is he better in Britain too these days?).

This popular scene, in which Coogan and Brydon compete for the best Michael Caine impersonation, might just sell you: