THE TRIP TO ITALY
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
If the Comedy Channel and the Food Channel jumped into an Aston Martin and hit the road, the pairing would be something like a Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon epicurean sojourn. In director Michael Winterbottom’s sequel to “The Trip,” the two British funnymen who ostensibly only sort of like each other fine-dine their way from Italy’s Piemonte region down to Naples and Capri. The pair’s free-association banter, descents into absurdity and endless string of impressions — Michael Caine, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Christian Bale’s Batman — will make some people laugh out loud while quickly wearing thin for others. But fans of “The Trip,” the pair’s first foodie foray together in northern England, will like this one more. It’s sparklier, funnier and a bit naughtier, with Alanis Morrisette’s “Jagged Little Pill” providing musical inspiration in the car.
A LETTER TO MOMO
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated, but passes the “G” test.
The second kiddie-anime feature directed by Japanese animator Hiroyuki Okiura (the first was 1998 award-winner “Jin-Roh”) doesn’t achieve the heights of the genre’s best, but with many realistically moving moments and the aid of three amusing imps (one of them a farting lizard), it tells an engaging tale. After her father dies, 13-year-old Momo and her mother move from Tokyo to a sleepy island where mysterious happenings are wreaking havoc. The grieving girl is obsessed with an unfinished letter her father left, blank except for the salutation “Dear Momo.” After hooking up with the trio of spirits only she can see, she goes on a magic- and danger-filled adventure in search of the truth. Scene after gorgeously hand-drawn scene offer a visual feast, but two hours of it is a bit too long.
MAY IN THE SUMMER
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for some language.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
Not every woman-driven movie set in the Middle East centers on war, death and oppression — and that’s a good thing. “May in the Summer,” which opened the Sundance festival in 2013, is about an Arab-American bride who gets cold feet when she goes to the old country to visit family. The vibe is like that of a Lifetime movie that happens to be set in Amman rather than American suburbia. Just sub in camel sightings in place of white-tailed deer.
Director, writer and star Cherien Dabis plays successful author May Brennan, whose devoutly Christian, Jordanian mother (Hiam Abbass) disapproves of her marrying a Muslim, while her American father (Bill Pullman), divorced from Mom, has no problem with it. In between reconnecting with her two sisters (one of them mischievously played by Alia Shawkat, aka Maeby Funke from “Arrested Development”) she makes a new, male friend. Dabis tells an OK story, but her second movie feels too slight to deliver the emotional heft of her first, 2009’s well-received “Amreeka,” about a Palestinian immigrant raising her son in Indiana.