Land Ho!: Finding the comedy in the ordinary

by Mark Burger

Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, long-time friends and graduates of the UNCSA School of Filmmaking in Winston-Salem, have joined forces to make Land Ho!, an effervescent comedy of manners and mirth that offers a cheerful, winning respite from summer-movie overkill.

This simple yet irresistibly effective film pairs Paul Eenhoorn (as Colin) and Earl Lynn Nelson (as Mitch), old friends and former brothers-in-law who jet off to Iceland for a late-inning getaway. Both men are getting on in years, and garrulous Mitch gently goads the shier Colin into the trip.

Off they go, not so much “grumpy old men” as good-natured old friends trying to reconnect while enjoying a change of scenery. Eenhoorn and first-time (!) actor Nelson are a disarmingly delightful duo, bringing an unforced appeal and charm to their characters. They’re exceedingly good company as the film cruises through the Icelandic landscape in what almost seems a latter-day homage to “road-trip” comedies of the 1980s.

As per the journey – and the genre — the guys do a little partying, are constantly on the lookout for women (Mitch, mostly), and sometimes stumble into trouble – like getting lost outside their hotel one foggy evening. Land Ho! is essentially a two-hander, although there are bright turns by Karrie Crouse (also a UNCSA grad) as Mitch’s younger cousin and Elizabeth McKee as her traveling companion, and Alice Olivia Clarke as a Canadian tourist Colin and Mitch encounter.

Writer/directors Katz and Stephens (Nelson’s real-life cousin) allow their leading men to do exactly that – take the lead.

They’re the stars of the show. It’s their ball and they run with it, their colorful international jaunt augmented by Andrew Reed’s lovely cinematography and Keegan DeWitt’s bouncy, ’80s-style score. From beginning to end, Land Ho! is a lovely lark.

Land Ho! is scheduled to open Friday. !

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