Movie Review: “Land Ho!” Should Keep On Sailing

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Review by James McDonald

A pair of former brothers-in-law embark on a road trip through Iceland.

“Land Ho!” sounded like it could have been fun. Two retired old friends decide to take a trip to Iceland to get away from it all and hilarity ensues. Part of me even hoped for something along the lines of “Grumpy Old Men On Vacation” and I could envision Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon bitching at each other and by the time the movie ends, they put their differences aside and realize that deep down inside, they really love each other. Sadly, that is not “Land Ho!”. Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) is a retired doctor who lives by himself in Kentucky. When his old pal Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), who just happens to be his ex brother-in-law, visits from Australia, Mitch informs him that he’s bought two round-trip tickets for them to Iceland. Initially, Colin refuses, claiming that he doesn’t have the money but Mitch reminds him that he’s a retired doctor and that he doesn’t have to worry about anything.

So our two senior citizens head off for a vacation full of luxurious hotels, scenic waterfalls and mountainous spas. Along the way, Mitch’s younger cousin Ellen (Karrie Crouse) and her friend Janet (Elizabeth McKee), who just happen to be in Iceland too, drop by for a few days before the two guys head out into the wilderness to find themselves. I never felt like I was watching a movie, rather, it felt more like a visual postcard. It was like the producers were given a grant to travel to Iceland to shoot a documentary about the country and its frigid beauty but at the last minute, decided to forego nonfiction and instead add a fictional story about two old guys trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. The two leads, Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn had absolutely no onscreen chemistry whatsoever and when you’re telling a story about two old buddies whose relationship goes back decades, make sure that they at least have a believable friendship.

Mitch is brash and crude and says the first thing that comes to his mind and he doesn’t care if he’s talking about women’s asses or breasts or sex in general, he simply doesn’t care who can hear him. Colin on the other hand, is very reserved and reticent and gets very embarrassed by Mitch most of the time they’re together. Halfway through the movie I wondered how these two men became acquaintances and exactly what it was that kept them lifelong friends. Throughout the film, there are some underlying hints as to why Mitch retired from his practice but whenever it comes up, he quickly brushes it aside. The film teases that something bad might have happened and that he was forced to leave but towards the end, he finally opens up about it and the big reveal is that because of his age, he was given the option to either quit or take early retirement so he chose the latter. And that’s it. The big reveal. The one aspect of the movie that could have lent some real drama to an otherwise trite and overly conventional story.

There are scenes throughout that just ramble on and on with no coherent structure whatsoever. When Ellen and Janet turn up, you expect that something interesting is going to happen, after all, why introduce us to two new characters if they’re not going to have any effect on the guys or indeed, the story? They meet with Mitch and Colin, go out to dinner, talk somewhat and then go back to their hotel. The next day, they say goodbye and that’s it. We meet several other characters in the course of the film who do absolutely nothing to advance the story so why even bother with them? There is some absolutely breathtaking photography by Andrew Reed of Iceland’s phenomenal rugged beauty but it’s not enough to save a movie that just doesn’t go anywhere. When you have two characters who are the main focus of your story, a) make sure that they can both act and b) make them interesting so that the audience can at least identify with one of them.

In select theaters including the Angelika in Plano and Dallas

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James McDonald
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