‘A Walk in the Woods’ Review | Hiker Boyz
They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but A Walk in the Woods can’t even seem to get that part right. The new dramedy stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as two old guys who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail (even though they’re old!), but they never quite reach their destination. The whole film gets trapped in a bleached out, feel good purgatory: never quite bad enough to despise, and never remotely good enough to enjoy.
And that’s a shame, because shoving Robert Redford and Nick Nolte into the woods for 104 minutes and forcing them share amusing anecdotes, talk seriously about their histories of substance abuse and fight off bears sounds like a pretty amazing thing to watch. But the phony high key lighting, the absence of real drama, and an over reliance on cheesy jokes leaves A Walk in the Woods feeling less like a theatrical release and more like a straight-to-video Grumpy Old Men sequel that accidentally attracted one hell of a cast.
There is no plot to A Walk in the Woods. Bill Bryson (Redford) never seems to understand his own motivation for hiking the Appalachian Trail at this age, and Stephen Katz (Nolte) is only there because he’s got nothing better to do. They have nothing to prove, and nothing to strive for, and elicit no cheers. The only person who even tells them not to go is Bryson’s wife, played by Emma Thompson (who deserves better roles than this), and all of her rationales are so completely legitimate that the movie eventually comes around to her side and admits that this whole endeavor was pretty foolish.
A Walk in the Woods is a film that means well. It’s a film about reflecting on a full life, striving to remain vital in one’s waning years, pondering the vastness of nature and giving older audience demographics a firm pat on the back. Those are not small tasks, as evidenced by the fact that A Walk in the Woods can’t quite accomplish any of them to satisfaction. The jokes get in the way of the drama. The wonders of nature doesn’t seem special when viewed through the lens of unremarkable photography. And older audiences deserve better than a forgettable matinee with jokes about fat chicks and a message that boils down to “old people can do anything, except find good roles in Hollywood nowadays.”
Images via Broad Green Pictures
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.