REVIEW WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For 21st Century Media
The mismatched buddy film is a well-established, often-entertaining genre. “Land Ho!” offers a twist, the co-protagonists are a pair of old codgers.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) is a recently retired surgeon from the bayou country of Louisiana. Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) was a French horn player in the symphony, but had a mid-life career change and became the branch manager of a bank. His character originally hails from Australia.
Mitch is an overbearing, blustery type with a crude nature. By contrast, Colin is a quiet, refined type. So, how did these two disparate souls end up together? It turns out that they were once married to a pair of sisters. Mitch was involved in an acrimonious divorce from one sister, while Colin’s wife passed away.
However, their relationship somehow survived the termination of their respective marriages. This basic premise strains credulity and sabotages the film. You must have a relative that you have to begrudgingly tolerate at annual Thanksgiving dinners and other family functions. If they became a non-relative, what would possess you to perpetuate the relationship?
An early scene defines the dynamic between Mitch and Colin. Mitch bemoans the size of Meg Ryan’s breasts, evidencing how sex-obsessed he is. Mitch then tries to browbeat poor Colin into succumbing to his latest hare-brained scheme. According to Mitch, the two of them should travel together and visit Iceland.
As Mitch exhorts, “It’s a chance for you to get away to a place that’s wonderful…. hot springs with all the minerals in the water, juicy fantastic lobster, and all the gorgeous broads,” Colin shoots back, “I don’t like lobster.” To Mitch, the solution is simple, “I’ll eat your lobster.”
Colin remains reluctant. To induce Colin to join him on the jaunt, Mitch offers to pick up the whole tab. Does Mitch’s seeming generosity stem from genuine altruism or is he using his economic prosperity to manipulate people into keeping him company?
In any event, what ensues is an interminable film about geezers and geysers. Mitch and Colin drive a giant hummer throughout Iceland. Location shots in Reykjavík, Skógar, Jökulsárlón, Landmannalaugur, Gillfoss, Strokkur, and Blue Lagoon capture the natural splendor of Iceland. However, the breathtaking scenery is not nearly adequate to compensate for a screenplay, which is weak, meandering, and uneventful.
Mitch turns out to be a thoroughly revolting character. He subjects Colin and the viewer to a non-stop barrage of vulgarisms. Moreover, Mitch has a pathologically underdeveloped sense of boundaries. At one juncture, Ellen (Carrie Krouse), Mitch’s generations-younger, twenties something cousin, and her friend, (Elizabeth McKee) fly over from Greenland. As soon as the two graduate students arrive, Mitch commences making lewd, sexually suggestive remarks to them. He assails Ellen and her companion, Janet (Elizabeth McKee) for their manner of dress and insists that they should dress more provocatively. Grossly inappropriate — I’d certainly say so!
In a subsequent vignette, Mitch makes an unannounced visit to Colin’s room in the middle of the night. Mitch wakens Colin, crawls into bed with his heterosexual traveling companion, and demands an opportunity to chat about some inane, self-absorbed piffle. Mitch studiously ignores Colin’s protestations. Later, Mitch meets a pair of vacationing newlyweds and demands to know how often they are copulating during their honeymoon. Is this guy for real?
I was never able to understood what drives Mitch. He seemed far less interested in achieving carnal pleasure than intentionally offending people with his unsolicited and unwelcome off-color commentary. To me, Mitch is one of the fulsome characters that I have ever been forced to endure on-screen or otherwise.
While Eenhoorn is an experienced actor, Nelson is not. He is a retired eye surgeon. How was he cast in such a pivotal role? It turns out that Nelson is a cousin of Martha Stephens, who co-wrote and co-directed the film with Aaron Katz.
Traditionally, the phrase, Land Ho!, was an exultation signaling that the end of a sea voyage was imminent. In this case of the film, “Land Ho!,” it should be construed as an advanced warning of an unbearable vehicle, replete with a loathsome character.
* R (for some language, sexual references and drug use) 96 minutes
Nathan Lerner sees over 200feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.