Friday, August 15, 2014

“Land Ho!” Flounders In Endlessly Drifting Waters

There's a reason many people wish that real life was more like the movies, but who really wants the movies to be just like real life? Really, what kind of person wants that? (Turns out, at least one of the writer-directors is from Portland. Enough said.)

Apparently the people responsible for “Land Ho!” believed this was what audiences wanted. The result is a movie that could've been enjoyable, but instead is akin to watching a montage of vacation photos. There's no point, no real overarching theme besides the location itself, and certainly nothing to take with you after leaving the theater.

It starts off promising enough. Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) are two senior citizens with a long friendship and some snappy dialogue (at first at least) between them. Mitch decides they're in something of a rut, and he insists on funding a trip to Iceland. Colin is reluctant, but agrees to go without too much of a fuss.

Mitch is really the only bright spot, as well as the only reason to keep even a minimal interest. He's old, but still very much alive, a humorous, lusty old womanizer with a soft underbelly, a stark contrast to the quieter, gentler Colin.

When they arrive, they do what old friends do when they're sightseeing: they take in the countryside, try some of the food, and chat a bit. They even quarrel a little. But there doesn't seem to be any point to any of it. It's as if the filmmakers forgot one of the major principles of filmmaking itself: that at least one thing in a movie should have a point. Sure, Mitch and Colin discuss their lives, but there's not any major revelations. They dine on exotic food, that at least one time is served on a rock, but we barely get to see it or know what it is. It's all part of the film's overall lack of any sort of focus that drags it down throughout. If these very promising leads were given more to work with, they'd be a genuine joy to watch. The chemistry seems to flow effortlessly from them, they're charming without being cute, yet remain firmly believable throughout.

But it actually gets worse the longer we stay with them. To watch this movie, you'd think that women simply disappear off the face of the planet when they turn 35, since there are no female characters that are the age of our two protagonists. If any had showed up, things would've felt a hell of a lot less sexist. That means Mitch's bawdy remarks to the few female characters are a lot less funny, and when one of the guys does get lucky, it feels that much more unnatural.

My personal background certainly doesn't help. As beautiful as the scenery is, it's also as empty and devoid of life as the movie's script. As someone who grew up in Wyoming, a lot of the sights, such as the hills, the geysers, the hot springs, are all things I'm actually familiar with, particularly around Yellowstone National Park. And its beautiful landscapes are teeming with wildlife such as bears, buffalo, and moose. And for all the wonderful Icelandic scenery on display, its wildlife is noticeably absent. It made me wonder why Mitch spent so much money to see something already available in the U.S. for much less cash.

A vacation movie that makes you want to stay home. Is there really anything worse?

Grade: D

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