Eugene Levy Travels the Globe Against His Will
Feb 24, 2023
Home TV Reviews ‘The Reluctant Traveler’ Review: Eugene Levy Travels the Globe Against His Will
The ‘Schitt’s Creek’ star gets out of his comfort zone and visits Finland, South Africa, Utah, Tokyo, and much more on Apple TV+’s new series.
Image via Apple TV+
There certainly isn’t a shortage of travel shows. Heck, there’s even an entire channel devoted to watching other people visit the places that you’ve always wanted to visit, but probably won’t. Unless there’s a unique hook, it’s hard to break through the noise and set yourself apart from being “just another travel show” that’s getting added to the leisure heap. Fortunately, Eugene Levy is well-equipped with a unique premise: he does not want to do any of this travel nonsense. He doesn’t want to touch the ocean. He doesn’t want to go hiking. He doesn’t want to ride in a helicopter. If it were up to him, he would just never leave his hotel room let alone be in one in the first place.
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This setup for the appropriately titled Apple TV+ series The Reluctant Traveler, from executive producers Levy and David Brindley, is hammered home for the audience rather quickly, with the risk-averse Best in Show and American Pie star reminding us every step of the way that he’s not too keen on all of this sightseeing and exploring. Whether he’s raising his iconic eyebrows in a mix of bewilderment and horror at the food and activities that await him, or he literally tells us that he does not want to be doing what he is doing, there is no bit of mystery about how this 75-year-old comedy titan is feeling.
But, that’s kind of the point—and charm—of this entire 8-episode adventure. The skepticism that Levy’s shown in his beloved characters over the years is evident as he travels the globe. He wears his uptight “no, thank you” attitude on his perfectly-pressed sleeves which makes it all the more rewarding when he’s willing to roll them up. While he’s always initially hesitant, he inevitably explores and quickly embraces the culture and history of the destination in question. The first hurdle for the funnyman is quite literally being outside, as he admits to being one of those people who are never totally content with the temperature and everything that comes with being in the elements. This is easier to do in Venice than it is in Finland, where the temperatures plunge to 50 degrees below freezing, something Levy learned the hard way.
Image via Apple TV+
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While it’s entertaining to watch Levy make witty quips as he struggles with ice fishing in Finland, horseback riding in Utah, facing his fear of heights in Costa Rica, and shoving his hand up an elephant’s butt in South Africa (for science), the show hits its stride when Levy is connecting with the locals and learning about each spot’s history. This is typically when the “reluctant” part of the show seamlessly melts away and Levy’s genuine enthusiasm for learning shines through. The series’ attention to and appreciation of the hundreds, sometimes thousands of years of history these places have is refreshing and informative. Venice, for example, is home to a Jewish ghetto—the first ever ghetto—in the world dating back to the early 1500s after the Jewish people were segregated. Learning about the ways that the city and cultures have since overcome such horrific circumstances and flourished instills a sense of hope and prosperity into every excursion.
What’s even more impressive than watching Levy come face to face with a rhino are the immaculate, high-end places he is staying at. Honestly, these places are insane, but in the best way. It does, however, set the bar at an absurdly high and unreachable height for the average tourist. Levy’s time in the Maldives, for example, stands out as being particularly luxurious that he even felt a little uncomfortable accepting all that the resort had to offer. He was assigned a butler and promised that he could have “anything anywhere anytime” during his stay. There are never more than 32 guests at a time, and it costs over $7,000 per night, making this the ultimate getaway. The steep price tag and sheer opulence are tricky to wrap one’s average head around, but, hey, it can’t hurt to live through Levy, can it?
The Reluctant Traveler’s weak spot is its runtime. Each episode hovers around the 30-minute mark, which is just not enough time to explore places as rich in entertainment value as these. Even one hour doesn’t feel like enough time to really get the full experience. By the time Levy gets acquainted with his surroundings and meets the staff, it already feels like it’s check-out time. Wanting more is surely better than wondering when the episode will end and is a testament to the show’s potential. Each episode typically features our man of the (half) hour doing an activity everyone simply must do when they are in the area, like going on safari in South Africa, navigating the desert in Utah, or watching a sumo wrestling match in Tokyo. This is followed by having a taste of the cuisine (usually prepared by the highest-tier chef), taking in the magnificent sights, learning about the history, and meeting some of the locals. We just need more quality time with Eugene!
Image via Apple TV+
Speaking of quality time, the show is at its best when Levy is immersing himself in the culture and connecting with the people. The common theme of returning to your roots and appreciating what you have feels like a big hug around every episode. This was probably on display the best when he was in Utah, and he was met with beautiful hospitality by members of the Navajo Nation. You can’t help but get teary-eyed watching the locals proudly show off their homes and loved ones. It’s fascinating to see how disconnected from technology the majority of the people were in every spot, and unsurprisingly, they were all incredibly happy. And it wasn’t even a conscious choice to be so disconnected from technology and become one with nature—it’s just the way things work.
The look of concern plastered across Levy’s face upon arrival in the foreign spot is always replaced with a toothy smile by the time the end credits roll. Each episode of The Reluctant Traveler features a new place on the worldwide map that honestly feels like it’s its own planet. At the risk of sounding extremely obvious and cliché, it’s amazing how much someone can grow once they throw caution to the wind and dive into the unknown. Eugene Levy might have reluctantly traveled to these places, but the viewer will happily go along for the ride.
The Reluctant Traveler premieres February 24 on Apple TV+.
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