Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

5. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan for The Trip

There are few deadlier rivalries than comedians trying to one-up each other. The Trip, directed by Michael Winterbottom and condensed to feature length from last year's six-part BBC series, is ostensibly the record of a journey to English Midland restaurants that Steve Coogan took with friend and fellow actor Rob Brydon. But the movie quickly devolves into Mortal Komedybat when the two men flex their skills at vocal mimicry. "Anyone over 14 who amuses themselves by doing impressions," Coogan harshly observes, "needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror." Yet the two instantly do dueling Michael Caines: Coogan emphasizing Caine's nasality, Brydon the lower, slower diction that comes from decades of "all the cigars and brandy." Working without a script or a net, and playing roles squirmishly close to their real-life personas — Brydon the happy husband, Coogan the dour womanizer — they give the viewer splendid company in this mix of My Dinner with Andre and Sideways. Their badinage provides an immediate and lasting kick as well as the spectacle of two champion word warriors at the top of their game.