Review by Daniel Rester
Land Ho! is an amusing little feel-good film from writer-directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. It deals with older men addressing both missed opportunities and new beginnings in their lives. What better way to do that than by taking a vacation to Iceland?
The story involves Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), two former brothers-in-law who head to Iceland on a trip together. Mitch is a rich doctor who tends to be blunt and make rude comments, whereas Colin is more emotional and thoughtful. The two of them go through a series of events as they make their way through Iceland, from meeting up with Mitch’s younger cousin to going to art galleries to venturing to see geysers.
Ho! is a film that is definitely more concerned with the journey than the outcome, with the film going through a series of events that don’t lead to much weight by the end. This may leave many audience members wanting more. I know I did.
Katz and Stephens’ movie is the kind of film where I kept waiting for something really significant to happen, but nothing ever really did. There are some small arcs to the characters during the denouement, but it felt like something was missing in the end. Perhaps there was more that could have been said about its themes of loss, love, aging, etc. in a serious manner.
Despite Ho! not adding up to much on a whole, many of its vignettes are wonderful. Scenes involving Mitch’s cousin and her friend (Elizabeth McKee and Karrie Crouse, both lovely) are particularly great. Those moments provide strong independent voices for both the young women and the older men — with interesting contrasts and comparisons coming into play character-wise. Other little moments involving such things as the uses of glow sticks and interacting with honeymooners also work well. Some of the random conversations and encounters are meh, but a lot of them are enjoyable and smile-worthy.
The film really rides on the chemistry between Nelson and Eenhoorn. Nelson’s delivery is hot-and-cold, but the actor’s personality shines brightly and it is hard not to like him. Eenhoorn is more believable and understated as Colin, providing smaller moments of emotion that work beautifully.
Though Katz and Stephens could have added more depth and complications to the story, it is obvious that they have great care for these characters; both Mitch and Colin are characters with strong backgrounds, and a lot of the dialogue they have is hilarious but also feels real. Katz and Stephens also capture the Icelandic locations well, with some of the wider shots being amazing to look at. Their choices in music for the soundtrack are terrific as well; many of the songs have a bouncy and appealing feel to them.
While I am disappointed that Ho! didn’t go to places it had the potential to go to, my biggest issue with the movie lies with some of the camerawork. I found myself annoyed and distracted a few times because the frame would start moving all over the place during conversations between characters. If two characters are moving around, that is one thing. But this seems to occur the most during the sit-down moments of the film; the choice seems both odd and lazy.
Ho! has scenes that grow on you and characters that are very likeable, but it all adds up to little as far as resonance goes. At least that was the case with me. I feel like older audience members may take away more from the picture on a whole. Even so, it is an enjoyable journey that isn’t a bad watch if you happen to catch it at a showing or on TV.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B).
MPAA Rating: R (for some language, sexual references and drug use).
Runtime: 1 hours and 35 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: July 11th, 2014.