Directed by Ken Kwapis. Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Kristen Schaal, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman
THE PLOT: Travel author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), goaded by a TV anchor who berates him for not travelling around America, decides to set out on the Appalachian Trail; a walk that takes 5 months, and 5 million steps. Bryson’s wife Catherine (Emma Thomspon) forbids him from doing the hike alone, so an old friend – Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) –is drafted in for the walk.
THE VERDICT: Despite the fact that Bryson and his friend Katz were 44 when they set out to hike the Appalachian Trail, both Redford and Nolte are in their 70s in the film. Originally punted as a film to reunite Redford with his Butch Cassidy co-star Paul Newman, the film is finally released in Irish cinemas this week.
Redford is likeable as Bryson; wry and funny, with a sense of adventure. The trouble is, we never get to know much more about the character than this, meaning this famous travel writer comes off slight in the film. The same goes for Nick Nolte as Katz, a womanising man with outstanding warrant and some misogynistic views, Nolte is never really given a chance to make the character anything more than an old-fashioned goof. The rest of the cast is made up of Emma Thompson, Nick Offerman, Mary Steenburgen, and Kristen Schaal as a self involved hiker who thinks she knows everything.
Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman’s screenplay tries to make this an odd-couple story about two old friends getting to know one another again on the trail. With recent films about enduring hikes in mind, such as Wild and The Way, this lighter approach would have been welcome if we actually got to know these characters beneath the superficial. Even when they are seemingly stranded the conversation rarely turns to anything deeper than the fact that Bryson loves his wife. Also, some sympathy for the characters is lost after they have several conversations that both body shame and degrade women.
Director Ken Kwapis makes the film slight and likeable for the first half, but once the men venture into the woods, and the audience craves something deeper from the men, the tone does not change. The film is well shot however, with the 800 mile walk from Georgia that the two complete looking wonderful and lush.
In all, ‘A Walk in the Wood’s is slight and unrewarding. Misogynistic dialogue does not help matters, nor does the fact that we never truly get to know these characters, and they don’t ever seem to learn anything, except maybe that they should have stayed in touch more.
Review by Brogen Hayes

A Walk in the Woods
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0Slight & misogynistic
  • filmbuff2011

    Running for 2,180 miles and crossing Georgia and Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the backdrop for bickering odd-couple film A Walk In The Woods. When we first meet aging travel writer Bill (Robert Redford), he’s giving a painfully awkward talk show interview. He’s done a lot of travelling, but hasn’t tackled everything. He hits upon the idea of following the Appalachian Trail, a scenic woodland walk with spectacular views. His wife Catherine (Emma Thompson) is less enthusiastic about him undertaking such a journey, reminding him of any number of disasters that might befall him. After being turned down by just about everybody as a travel partner, he gets a call from Stephen (Nick Nolte), a former alcoholic who he had friction with during a trip to Europe four years earlier. But Bill takes up his offer and the two of them set off into the wild, encountering quirky hiker Mary Ellen (Kristen Schaal), friendly hotel manager Jeannie (Mary Steenburgen), as well as bears and other woodland dangers… Based on Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk In The Woods was originally intended as a reunion vehicle for both Redford and the late Paul Newman. Just thinking of the former Butch and Sundance Kid out in the wild together is a mouth-watering prospect. But that onscreen magic between those two stars can’t be recreated here. Nolte is an often under-rated actor, but he’s clearly miscast. His gravel-voiced boor makes an odd contrast to the more measured and thoughtful Redford. But even Redford seems to be having an off day, failing to ignite his scenes with any real purpose. Most of the film consists of the two of them bickering away while trying to reach the end, or rather cheating their way to the end of the trail. The most exciting scene here consists of the two of them stuck on a ledge. A ledge that’s only a few feet high. Travelogue films about characters returning to nature like Into The Wild and Wild often result in character revelations and changes in opinions. Nothing in these two characters change over the course film, meaning that this isn’t really a journey worth taking with them. A muddled and rather dull film that serves no real purpose. **