Let’s begin with the New York Times‘ Manohla Dargis: “Land Ho!, written and directed by Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, is a delightfully funny road movie about two longtime friends, a garrulous American, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), and his rather more reserved former brother-in-law, an Australian, Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), who embark on a road trip through Iceland. By turns playful and wistful, the movie is anchored by its irresistible lead performances, with Mr. Eenhoorn, who played the title character in the indie gem [This Is Martin Bonner], a perfect low-key foil for the outsize Mr. Nelson, the breakout star of this year’s festival. The filmmakers adroitly skirt both the cute and the condescending—the default registers of too many movies about geezers—to offer a dual portrait of gloriously alive men who just happen to be old.”
Land Ho! “actually restores the ‘sun’ and ‘dance’ to this event,” writes Wesley Morris at Grantland. The men “drink beer, share pot, discuss movies, look at art, dance on rocks, get lost, and ogle women—well, Mitch does most of that. Mitch does most of everything. His personality isn’t big. It’s titanic. Nelson only recently came to acting. He’s a plastic surgeon in New Orleans. And his cheerful vulgarity, which includes a kind of non-threatening old-school chauvinism, is part of his charm. This is an authentic version of what Danny McBride’s brand of comedy seems to be going for (Nelson appeared in the water-park episode of Eastbound & Down). But Nelson radiates life and warmth—there’s no bullshit, and in Land Ho! he’s got you from the opening scene.”
Brandon Harris for Filmmaker: “Unlike most road movies, there is no epiphany awaiting the protagonists of this handsomely shot movie that contains both the gentle narrative verite of Katz’s previous work (Quiet City, Cold Weather) and the dynamic, ’70s-style zooms and meandering, delightfully lugubrious scene work found in Stephens’s (Pilgrim Song, Passenger Pigeons). It turns out that both groups of collaborators, those on screen and behind the camera, are matches made in heaven; the pair of young directors, who met while students at North Carolina School for the Arts, get miraculous work out of these two perfectly cast men, and out of each other. They’re destined to make more movies on their own, I suspect, but here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last of Katz and Stephens as a duo.”
Variety‘s Justin Chang: “That a comedy starring two actors of a certain age will touch on its characters’ lifetime disappointments, interpersonal resentments and encroaching sense of mortality is more or less a given; it’s considerably less assured that it will cover this well-tilled territory as gracefully as Land Ho! does.”
“Land Ho! is appealing for not going the route of easy gags and dumbed-down humor, content instead to ride on Nelson’s abundant personality and the slow-burn gravitas of Eeenhoorn,” agrees Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter.
Interviews with the directors and cast: Lindsey Bahr (EW), David Ehrlich (Film.com), Eugene Hernandez (Daily Buzz), Indiewire, Danielle Lurie (Filmmaker), Melena Ryzik (NYT), Dan Schoenbrun (Filmmaker), Valentina I. Valentini (Twitch) and Hillary Weston, who also talks with composer Keegan DeWitt for BlackBook.
Then there are Ioncinema‘s Sundance “Trading Cards,” designed, of course, to look like baseball cards complete with photos, stats and brief interviews: Katz and Stephens, Eenhoorn and Nelson and producer Mynette Louie.
As Peter Knegt reports at Indiewire, Sony Pictures Classics has picked up worldwide rights.
Update, 2/1: “The Hollywood version of Land Ho! would star Alan Arkin and Michael Caine, be loud and grating, have a hundred Viagra references, and make $150 million,” writes Eric D. Snider at Film.com. “The real version… stars two men you’ve never heard of, is charming and quiet, and will make a maximum of twelve dollars. That’s just how life works, and we have to accept it.”
Update, 4/25: “In essence, Land Ho! is of a kind with those films in the buddy-comedy subgenre,” writes Chris Cabin at Slant. “And yet Katz and Stephens transcend that mode fully by catching two elderly men in a state of vibrant emotional and existential bloom, despite the grim forecast afforded by their late age and behavior.”