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A Walk in the Woods - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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A Walk in the Woods
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Directing: C+
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: B



A Walk in the Woods is an unfortunate result of a passion project gone wrong. Robert Redford intended to make the movie with Paul Newman, to reunite after starring together in both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. The book on which it was based, of the same name, was optioned as far back as 1998. But it took too long to get made and Paul Newman died in 2008.

Seven years later, here Redford is with . . . Nick Nolte. This seems an odd choice to replace Paul Newman. Redford and Newman, at least, are both actors who maintained an uncanny handsomeness well into old age. Nick Nolte looks like he just got out of the dryer. Then again, Nolte's character, Stephen, is a recovering alcoholic who is avoiding thirty days of jail time in Des Moines, Iowa. The disheveled look suits the character. One wonders how Paul Newman would have pulled that off, or if they changed the character for Nolte.

Stephen is an old, estranged friend of aging author Bill Bryson. Bill, restless after years of doing no more notable work than writing forwards to other people's books, suddenly gets it into his head that he wants to walk the Appalachian Trail. We never find out Bill's age, only repeated statements that he's old. It should be noted that Redford himself is 79. Nolte, for his part, is 74, although in this movie he could easily pass for ten years older.

Bill and Stephen went on a trip to Europe together when they were young, and ended it "despising each other." Bill's wife (played by Emma Thompson, with nothing to do but fret and worry about Bill going on this trip) insists he's not aloud to go alone, so Bill calls all the friends he can think of to join him. For a trip expected to take six months! Why would he expect anyone, let alone someone in his generation, to agree to such a thing?

Well, Stephen hears through a third party about it, and calls Bill to ask if he can go. Bill's just happy to have found someone. So, off they go.

You might expect that this would be followed by some fascinating adventures as they walk hundreds of miles along the trail, but you'd be disappointed. Some relatively notable actors show up in small parts along their way -- Nick Offerman as the guy who sells them their backpacks and tents; Kristen Schaal as the know-it-all hiker they have to outrun to get rid of; Mary Steenburgen as a hotel owner who is clearly into Bill -- but one can only assume they all merely got on board for the opportunity to work with the likes of Robert Redford. It couldn't possibly have been the script, which veers between dull and preposterous.

Some of the things that happen on the trip these men take just ring false. They hitchhike at one point, and are picked up by a young couple who are sharing a bottle of booze while the guy drives. And then the woman starts giving him head while he drives. Why does that need to be in this story?

Bill tries to find his way to a K-Mart and is somehow confused by the roads so he goes under a bridge and winds up waist deep in mud. This is while Stephen, back at the laundromat dressed in nothing but socks and a garbage sack, flirts with a middle-aged woman who asks him to help her untangle her panties from the washing machine.

These are the kinds of ridiculous events that occur while the guys are not on the trail. With the exception of a stupid run-in with bears where they stand up inside their tents to scare them away, things are far less ridiculous on the trail itself, which the movie does spend a great deal on. The problem is that they aren't very exciting either. Neither of these characters are all that interesting. Neither their personalities or their motives have any real depth to them. Clearly we're meant to think they are both having some kind of late-life crisis, but they fail to make us care.

The best that can be said of A Walk in the Woods is that it features several quite beautiful vistas along the Appalachian Trail. This alone does not make the movie compelling, however. I can't say that I was particularly bored by this movie, as it tended to keep you wondering what might happen next. It's just that what comes next offers no real movie-going satisfaction. You'd so just as well to go on your own walk in the woods at a nearby park and just save yourself the price of a movie ticket. There's no need to spend a couple of hours watching these two old guys walking through it.

Robert Redford and Nick Nolte take a dull stroll along the Appalachian Trail in A WALK IN THE WOODS.


Overall: C+
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Comments
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: September 12th, 2015 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I've heard AARP was showing free screenings of this. In our case, it was showing clear on the other side of town.

Eh, better to see a doc about the trail, if the weather's too poopy to hike. :/
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