By Virgintla Heffernan
If you couldn't get a flu shot and now feel woozy, "Long Way Round" comes at the right time. An ambling six-part documentary about a motorcycle trip taken by the actors Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, "Long Way Round," which starts tonight on Bravo, is dreamy, long and superfluous - a perfect convalescence movie. Nor would it be unwelcome viewing on a long plane ride. It's a film for time-biding.
Mr. McGregor, 33, and Mr. Boorman, 38, the son of the director John Boorman, met on the set of "The Serpent's Kiss" and hit it off. Early in their friendship, they planned a journey on motorcycles. First they talked of Spain, but they soon grew more ambitious, finally devising a fantasy trip: 20,000 miles, from London to New York, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, Siberia, Alaska and Canada. One plane was involved. (Test your geography skills.)
Sure enough, in the first episode, the actors don't meet much peril. They have few concerns beyond supervising sponsors, consultants and collaborators. Considerable time is spent on their immunizations. ("Think manly thoughts," Mr. McGregor tells himself, wincing in pain.) When they take lessons on how to evade attacks and handle guns, the film takes on an aspect of mockumentary satire. Tellingly, Mr. McGregor mistakenly remembers his fellow actors in "Black Hawk Down" as soldiers; he's quixotic.
But he's also guileless. His impatience to throw off his movie-star status seems real, as does his enthusiasm for the bleak places of the earth. Something about the way Mr. McGregor repeats "the Road of Bones," savoring the portentous name of this Siberian thoroughfare in his Scottish accent, expresses pure wonderment that he's lucky enough to travel it. The casual, overcast look of the film makes it still more beguiling. No one's trying too hard here.
Mr. Boorman is considerably less winning, perhaps because he's not so eager to please. He doesn't sing or play guitar for the cameras; he doesn't seem bent on seducing anyone. A brief interview with his mother, Crystal, is tantalizing, however; she and John Boorman live in splendor in Ireland. Her demeanor and accent suggest British languor without limit, and make Charley's eagerness to do something hard entirely understandable. ("It's good to do different things in life, isn't it?" Mr. Boorman's twin sister, Daisy, tells the camera vaguely. Indeed.)
Once the boys hit the road in the second part of the series, their problems have as much to do with paperwork and border documentation as with physical hardship. (A splash of gasoline in Mr. McGregor's eyes makes everyone briefly hysterical.) But it's all a pure, unstrenuous pleasure to watch. The scenes of waiting, negotiating and joking around bring travel fantasies to mind as readily as do scenes of tropical beaches. They're the essence of travel - all travel.
While Mr. Boorman blows off his video diary, Mr. McGregor is conscientious about his, earnestly meditating on who he is and why he's on this trip. The simplicity of their project - to go far, far away - becomes irresistible. "The idea is that we go on an adventure, O.K.?" Mr. McGregor pleads with someone who doubts the stamina of the actors. That's all - just an adventure. Even a celebrity deserves one of those, right?
Produced by David Alexanian of Elixir Films and Russ Malkin of Image Wizard TV.
Posted on 10/28/2004 at 10:00:00 PM