August 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Land Ho!' follows two old friends reviving their lives in Iceland

Earl Lynn Nelson, left, and Paul Eenhoorn are odd-couple old friends who travel through Iceland in 'Land Ho!' (Andrew Reed / Sony Pictures Classics)

“Land Ho!” relies on its own oddball charm and the beauty of Iceland to pull you in. Luckily, they’re a fine if decidedly low-key combination.

Basically this is the story of a geezer holiday. Former brothers-in-law Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) get together for dinner, where Mitch announces he has bought two airline tickets to Iceland and he’s going to foot the bill for a big vacation. Colin reluctantly agrees and off they go.

The old friends are a classic odd couple. The Australian Colin is reserved, a former French horn player who’s just gone through an ugly divorce and lost most of his money on a bad business deal. Mitch, on the other hand is a brash doctor from New Orleans, always ready to dole out advice and more than a bit of a dirty old man.

Writer-directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens play things very loose here, with virtually no storyline and dialogue that seems improvised even if it isn’t. A young cousin of Mitch’s just happens to be visiting Iceland with a friend, and they all go out to a fancy dinner, after which they end up at a dance club where the guys are twice as old as everybody else. The cousin gets drunk and the guys end up sharing a bed. Things like that.

After the cousin leaves, the boys hit the road, and the film becomes a travelogue as they visit a geyser, a stunning waterfall, hot springs and just wander through the countryside — bickering and joking with one another, with Colin eventually exhausted by Mitch’s blustery ways.

Revelations ease out slowly, the chief one being that Mitch, who initially says he isn’t retired, in fact is, and has orchestrated the trip in part to prove to himself he’s still alive. With his loud voice, Southern accent and love of corny sexual metaphors, there’s little doubt that his pulse is strong.

The contrast between the friends runs as deep as the actors themselves. Eenhoorn is a veteran film and TV presence who’s been acting since his teens; the craggy Nelson is an actual doctor who’s just started acting late in life. Eenhoorn has a natural sense of control while Nelson just bulls his way through scenes with awkward enthusiasm. The balance works in its own quaint way.

That way, though, is anything but slick. “Land Ho!” is an indie oddball of a movie that wanders about with two seniors looking to squeeze a bit more out of life. The squeezing is gentle but affirming, just like the film.

'Land Ho!'

GRADE: B-

Rated R for some

language, sexual

references and drug use

Running time: 95 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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