Sometimes, two real characters interacting with each other can be a far more interesting sight than usual CGI spectacles, and “Land Ho!” can be a prime example of that. While it is just a simple story about two old guys on their brief tour around Iceland, this sweet little comedy constantly tickles us with humor and intimacy as we come to know about them, and it even feels a bit poignant around the ending although nothing particularly dramatic happens along their pleasant journey.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Lenson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) have been good friends for many years since they became close through Mitch’s marriage to Colin’s sister. Mitch, who is a retired surgeon, was divorced from his wife several years ago, but he is still on good terms with his ex-brother-in-law, and we see Colin visiting Mitch’s house at the beginning. When they are having a dinner together, Mitch suddenly suggests to Colin that they go to Iceland for having some fun together, and Colin reluctantly follows his friend’s plan, for Mitch has already bought plane tickets for them while taking care of their trip plan in advance.
They soon arrive in Reykjavík, Iceland, and we see more of their contrasting personalities. More outgoing than his friend, Mitch can be sometimes a bit tiresome in his jolly, gregarious attitude, but he is a good-natured guy who can always brighten up your mood whenever he is around you. While Colin looks shy and introverted in comparison, he is a gentle guy of reserved common sense, and, as observing their conversations, we come to sense how his calm attitude complements his friend’s bouncy nature.
This sounds like a familiar set-up for comedy, but the movie wisely avoids usual clichés as leisurely hanging around these guys, and a good example can be shown when Mitch’s young female relative Ellen (Karrie Crouse) and her friend Janet(Elizabeth McKee) come to spend one day with Mitch and Colin. It does not take much time for this foursome to form a rapport between them, and their dinner scene at some first-class restaurant is laced with warm liveliness; everyone is really enjoying each other’s company during dinner, and we are also treated with the occasional tasty shots of their dinner course being prepared and served one by one. When they go to a night club with their ladies after their dinner, Mitch and Colin feel older than usual as watching young people dancing from the distance, but then they find something to be amused about, and everyone comes to spend a fairly good night on the whole while nothing serious happens.
And I also like a small scene in which Mitch comes across a young couple at the lobby of a hotel. At one point during their pleasant conversation, Mitch whispers a small personal advice to one of them, and it is delivered with sincerity and a bit of naughtiness to amuse you. Yes, it is indeed a familiar advice you have probably heard before, but it feels like being delivered from real life experience, and we nod with a smile to his words.
There are many other small moments of low-key comedy throughout the film, and the directors/writers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens ably draw tiny but genuine laughs from these moments as freely rolling their characters along their planned tour route. Although it was shot with a small budget during a shooting period less than 3 weeks, the movie looks fabulous with those beautiful landscapes of Iceland, and they are as good as you can expect from any nice travelogue film. We see the falls spectacular to watch for its icy grandeur, and then there is a geyser which occasionally ejaculates its water in the air in front of amazed tourists. At an outdoor hot spring, Mitch and Colin come across a Canadian woman named Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke), and the movie handles this scene with the right balance between humor and sensitivity as Colin becomes a little more opened than before during his private time with Nadine.
The movie shines with such nice character moments like that while showing its quirky sense of humor, and I was not that surprised to know that David Gordon Green participated in its production as one of the executive producers. Like his recent work “Prince Avalanche” (2013), the movie is driven by the dynamics between two different characters, and it also has a wonderfully authentic atmosphere established from gorgeous nature landscapes.
Its distinctive charm mainly comes from a likable duo performance from its two lead actors. Right from their first scene, Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn feel natural as two guys who have spent lots of time with each other, and they have a good chemistry to engage our attention. When Mitch and Colin happen to lose their way during one darkening evening, we only see their faint outline on the screen, but we cannot help but be more amused by their mild bickering as they try to find a way back to their staying place.
“Land Ho!” is a treat too good to overlooked, and it is refreshing to see a comedy which generates good laughs from the deep understanding of its characters instead of pushing them into predictable plot. This is a charming and relaxing comedy where the journey itself matters more than its destinations, and there is also something touching about these two guys who will move on together like they have for many years. They are old indeed, but there is still time for these boys, you know.