Film based on memoir fails to deliver



Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in "A Walk in the Woods." (Frank Masi/Broad Green Pictures/TNS)


Based on the travel memoir of the same name, “A Walk in the Woods” is about travel writer, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), deciding to defy his elderly age, the warnings of his wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson), and challenge himself to hike the Appalachian Mountains. With his long lost friend, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), coming along for the trip, the two of them begin the harrowing trek on the Appalachian Trail.

Directed by Ken Kwapis (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), the movie has some honest parts and good writing. The first third of the film sets up characters and seems to promise a fun romp as these two old friends go through the wilderness despite age and years of silence between the two.

Redford and Nolte make an amusing pair. They play off of each other well, with Redford being the healthy, well-off author and Nolte being the overweight, recovering alcoholic. The material seems a bit below their talent, but they are entertaining enough to watch, and the actors never seem to grow bored or stale with the script.

What does get boring or stale, however, is that some jokes are dragged out for too long, aren’t funny or are unnecessary. Just as there are honest, well intended moments of character writing, there is some genuine humor here that can be funny; it’s just overshadowed by the forced, slapstick, sitcom antics that happen too often for their own good.

Another problem is the amount of needless sexual humor. Some of it does fall in with the well-written funny jokes, but most of it is just pointless and stretches too far for a laugh. While never extremely bawdy or immature, once again, it just occurs too many times.

Overall, “A Walk in the Woods” is a very simple movie. It doesn’t beat you over the head with the drama of an elderly man overcoming doubts and age limits; it just invites you along for “a walk in the woods.” And it delivers on that. The film is never overly serious, and that is something that can be appreciated about it. It could have been a lot worse, but just like the memoir it’s based on, it is at-heart a comedy about two grumpy old men meandering through the woods, reminiscing about their youth, thinking about what lies ahead of them and running into the occasional bear/abrasive hiker.