Robert Redford initially hoped the late Paul Newman would co-star alongside him in this adaptation of Bill Bryson’s ambitious, late-midlife expedition along the Appalachian trail. Nick Nolte fills in amiably as Bryson’s overweight old friend, Katz, gruff and plodding and hardly providing the dynamism and vigour Bryson requires to see him through this eccentric and excessive hike. It’s an amiable, light hearted adventure, with two likeable leads getting themselves into geriatric mishaps, trying to prove something to only themselves.
Oddly, the eponymous book was only published in 1998, making Bryson at most mid 40s when he actually did the hike, so there’s certainly a strong amount of artistic license taken from a book which probably used a pinch of the same stuff. Maybe when you’ve still got hair like Redford, you transcend traditional ideas of age. It is consistently mildly amusing, which might be damning with faint praise but it is very watchable with a cup of tea. Comparisons will inevitably be made against last year’s Wild, in which Reese Witherspoon also embarked upon the same trail. That was an altogether more complete film, with a greater sense of danger and dirt than A Walk in the Woods, which doesn’t really attempt to elicit either. At its heart, it’s a film about trying, a noble sentiment from a sporting crack at bringing Bryson to life, albeit a little more wrinkled than the author may appreciate.
Review by David Rank
A Walk in the Woods is out now in the UK and US. Rating 15 (UK). Running time 104 mins.