Land Ho! takes a road trip to nowhere

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Starring Paul Eenhoorn and Earl Lynn Nelson. Rated PG.

You know that sexist, backslapping uncle you have to see once a year, and it takes another year to get over him? Well, he’s got his own movie now, although some of the toxicity is mitigated by pairing him with a gentler soul, who is also played by a better actor.

The uncle here is the Louisiana-drawling Mitchell (neophyte actor Earl Lynn Nelson), a newly retired surgeon who shanghais ex in-law Colin into accompanying him on a spontaneous trip to Iceland. (The latter is played by Australia’s quietly commanding Paul Eenhoorn.) They coincidentally bump into one of Mitchell’s young relatives and her travelling companion (Karrie Crouse and Elizabeth McKee) and, much later, a nice photographer from Toronto (Alice Olivia Clarke). But mostly it’s the two geezers—who used to be married to sisters—arguing in fancy restaurants, or trekking out to see geysers and hot springs in the hauntingly grey-skied countryside.

The nicely shot film was written and directed by the team of Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, each of whom has previously made a few low-budget indie features. Their script seems only partially digested. The movie takes great pains to reassure us that the frequently pot-smoking Mitchell is all bark and no bite. But the various women, waiters, and total strangers he verbally torments don’t know that. And the antics of our leads, both pushing 70, are accompanied by ’80s music that is apropos of nothing.

Apart from the semimystical setting, Land Ho! is much like those road movies in which some decent schmo is forced to learn a valuable lesson from John Candy or Zach Galifianakis. The film’s biggest, but not only, problem is that Colin doesn’t get much out of the trip that he wouldn’t have enjoyed better without Mitchell. And audiences may feel much the same.

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