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A Walk In The Woods - Review

A Walk In The Woods

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ORIGINALLY conceived as a reunion vehicle for Robert Redford and Paul Newman, this adaptation of the popular book by celebrated travel writer Bill Bryson is an amiable if inconsequential buddy movie that offers very little to stretch either viewers or performers.

Redford takes on the role of Bryson, while Nick Nolte is his travel companion Katz, and the two veterans share an engaging chemistry that quite often makes up for the film’s many shortcomings.

The story finds Bryson deciding to challenge himself to hike the legendary Appalachian Trail, 2,200 miles of America’s most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine, with support from estranged companion Katz.

Their ensuing adventure places them at odds with each other, Mother Nature and the odd bear, while learning something about themselves and the nature of their relationship in the process.

But anyone expecting a triumph against the odds style journey in the mould of Into The Wild or Wild, in which both actors put themselves through the mill physically and emotionally, had best think again.

The emphasis here is largely on humour, with repeated jokes about the pair’s aches and pains, or inability to cope with each other… or, in the case of Nolte’s Katz, his hard drinking and womanising past. But even then, there’s not much in the way of substance. Even the more dangerous encounters with nature – a severe snow storm, or an encounter with two bears – offers more of an opportunity to play for laughs rather than offer any real peril.

Were it not for the fact that Redford and Nolte share such endearing chemistry (the two first met while shooting Redford’s little-seen political drama The Company You Keep), then A Walk In The Woods may have felt a whole lot worse than it is. But thanks to their command of the material, the odd moment gains a little extra poignancy or edge, while they handle the comedic stuff well.

Ken Kwapis’ direction also makes the most of his eye-catching locations (albeit that very little of the film was shot on the actual Appalachian Trail) and keeps the running time fairly brisk. Hence, while this stroll through the woods may move at a mostly pedestrian pace and doesn’t provide nearly enough for its leading men (or Britain’s Emma Thompson, as Redford’s wife) to do, it still manages to engage and does – according to one fan of the source material – stay true to the spirit of Bryson’s book.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Release Date: September 18, 2015