A Walk in the Woods you’d be better off not to take

Robert Redford and Nick Nolte
Robert Redford and Nick Nolte

Matt Adcock (@Cleric20) reviews A Walk in the Woods, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte

If you go down to the cinematic woods today, you’ll potentially be in for a new ‘comedy’ adventure based on celebrated travel writer Bill Bryson’s much loved book. A Walk in the Woods is the account of how Bryson (played by Robert Redford), challenged himself to hike the ‘Appalachian Trail’ which is over 2,000 miles of America’s most unspoiled countryside from Georgia to Maine.

I have to admit to not reading the book so can only take the film on its merits and this was without doubt one of the most disappointing cinema experiences of the year.

Joining Bryson on his – I was going to say midlife crisis walk as he was 44 when attempting this but as Redford is 79 this changes the dynamic somewhat – is his degenerate pal Steven Katz (Nick Nolte, 74). And whilst Redford might not be the dynamic, charismatic twinkle eyed smoothy he once was, Nolte is a walking nightmare, bumbling about dropping F words and generally looking so out of shape that you fear this could turn into a snuff movie at any moment.

It’s like seeing punch drunk former world champions suffering in the ring when it would have been a much more compelling movie (my lovely wife pointed out) if they had cast actors nearer the age of the characters in the book, maybe I’d pick Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper? Star of this show is Emma Thompson who is on screen for about eight minutes as Bryson’s left at home wife.

So it’s poor stilted dialogue and unfunny writing every step of the way – with a pervasive ‘haven’t I seen this before’ kind of déjà vu feel. Very few tired clichés are left unused and director Kwapis even manages to alienate the nature fans in the audience by limiting the incredible shots of the actual forest trail and focussing on the conversations and ‘antics’ of the two leads at the many hotels, cafes and erm, laundry breaks.

Redford and Nolte have both been undoubtedly great actors in their time but this feels like an indulgent quick paycheque of a movie for each of them. Ironically the theme of regrets in later life is brought very much front and centre when you consider that this ‘walk’ eats up almost two hours of your life that you are not going to get back.