So it turns out that approximately everyone can do at least a semi-decent impression of legendary British thespian, Michael Caine. As far as unusually distinctive and mellifluous voices are concerned, it's actually quite easy to reproduce. Go on, give it a go in the privacy of your own room / office / cubicle, you'll probably be surprised by the quality of your own results. Who knows, you could be the next... this guy! Or maybe this guy, who historically introduced hats into the wide and sacred world of Michael Caine impressions. It's a fun little party trick, but apparently the premiere Michael Caine impressionists are quite competitive, criticizing every small nuance of their peers' performances in their bloodthirsty quest to rise above as the best of the best. And if this hilarious clip from Michael Winterbottom's new film / BBC mini-series 'The Trip' is any indication, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are like the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of Michael Caine impressions, locked in a fierce eternal struggle for that #1 ranking.
'The Trip,' -- which played to largely positive reviews (including ours) during September's Toronto International Film Festival -- finds Coogan doing what he does best: Playing a droll, acerbic version of himself for Michael Winterbottom. Tasked by a newspaper with the sadistically arduous task of driving around the English countryside and reviewing a series of fine restaurants (the humanity!), Coogan intends to embark on the titular trip with his girlfriend, but winds up stuck with his buddy Rob Brydon (an old friend of Coogan's, and a comedy mainstay in the U.K.). Bucolic scenery, mock exasperation, and oodles of impressions ensue (the duo later tackles the inimitable vocal stylings of Woody Allen).
Steve Coogan is a very funny man, and he can be a brilliant actor when the material suits him as it is almost always does when he collaborates with Winterbottom. American audiences would be readily forgiven for thinking otherwise (or for thinking, "Who's Steve Coogan, again?"), because his Hollywood career has been a careful melange of high-concept disasters ('Around the World in 80 Days') and forgettable supporting performances in which he's been denied the opportunity to really do his thing ('The Other Guys'). But while Coogan's battle for global stardom rages on and we wish him all the best, we're going to have to go ahead and declare him the loser on this front.
While both he and Brydon have a studied grasp of the extent to which Michael Caine's voice has changed over the years, Brydon's Caine reigns supreme because of the exact nasal quality Coogan accuses it of lacking. Brydon takes a big risk with his impression, almost shutting down his nose like he's got a severe cold (in the Caine impressions community, it's a gambit known as "The Sniffler"), and when coupled with his naturally low voice the results are nearly perfect. Coogan's angry Caine is classically trained and he understands the true power of the broken voice, but the whole thing feels a bit limited and devoid of the range required to be a true champion. So we're going to go ahead and declare Brydon the winner, but feel free to duke it out amongst yourselves in the comments below.
And don't feel too bad for Mr. Coogan, he can always turn to his close cousin Alfred Molina for emotional and career support.