In the episode of "Seinfeld," when Jerry and George try to pitch a TV show which is about nothing, who knew that idea would come to fruition many years later in the movie, “Land Ho!” That might be a tad harsh, but not overly so. A joint U.S./Iceland production,written and directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, “Land Ho!” is the genial story of two late 60-something men—former brothers-in-law, Mitch and Colin and their taking of Iceland by storm…not.
Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) is a divorced, newly retired surgeon and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) is a widower who recently separated from his much younger second wife. Mitch surprises Colin with a trip to Iceland, supposedly to get Colin out of his funk, but in truth, Mitch needs the trip just as much Colin. The two men couldn’t be more different. Mitch is gregarious to a fault…a big man with a huge heart. Colin is slight with a gentle spirit. Somehow the pairing works. And there you have it. The two men have small adventures along the way, smoke pot and have a chance get-together with Mitch’s much younger cousin. But primarily this is the amiable story of two men, via road-trip, putting the past behind them and deciding to look forward to what lies ahead.
What makes this movie watchable and more enjoyable than it deserves is the beautiful Icelandic landscape and more importantly, the fabulous performances of the two leads. Earl Lynn Nelson is a revelation. A newcomer to acting, he is a natural. He’s what you’d imagine Matthew McConaughey’s grandfather might be like. Blessed with a charming Southern accent, he has most of the dialogue and he’s terrific. Nelson’s expressive face lets you know that there is a lot more going on beneath his jokester surface. Paul Eenhoorn is a veteran actor and he is equally amazing in a much more low-key manner. It would be very easy to be run over by Nelson’s garrulous Mitch, but pro that he is, Eenhoorn’s Colin more than holds his own with just the right expression and tone.
The problem with this movie is that everyone else in the cast has limited acting experience and it shows. It’s one thing to be natural, but it’s something else entirely to act with virtually no emotion. And that is the case with almost every human with whom the two men interact.
Jerry Seinfeld was able to make a fortune from a story about nothing and it worked. “Land Ho!” feels like a story about nothing and that is simply not enough to make the time pass or the movie move.
“Land Ho! debuted” at the Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled for release later this year.