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A Walk in the Woods
Genre Adventure
 
Review:

A Walk in the Woods is just like its movie title: breezy and understated. That's the inherent charm of this adaptation of Bill Bryson's novel, it's an easy-going and amusing adventure drama that ambles along, never straying too far from the path.

The path is the Appalachian trail, a 2000 mile hike and six month journey very few manage to see through. While it may not have the spiritual dimension of the Camino De Santiago, it's become a piece of Americana that connects travelers with their homeland. This was the idea Bill Bryson held onto after moving back home after living in the UK for more than a decade.

In A Walk in the Woods, we find Bryson giving a bad interview and generally restless with his lot in life. He's played by Robert Redford, who compels us to believe his state of affairs and convince us that a six month hike will do him a world of good. Redford is solid, leaving All Is Lost in his wake, only to play in a spirited, yet much lighter Man vs. Nature adventure.

He's not alone, playing off the unmistakable Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz, a bottom-of-the-barrel friend from his past, who becomes his travelling companion once again. The two are reunited as if by fate after Catherine, Bill's concerned wife brought to screen by a forthright Emma Thompson, raises her reasonable concerns about her husband roughing it in the wild against bears and the elements.

It's a The Bucket List style set up. While Redford and Nolte may not be as high profile a buddy movie team as Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, they've still got enough odd couple chemistry to get a foothold, leveraging their unsuitable pairing to comic effect and siphoning their character's history as an emotional fuel reserve. The one-last-big-adventure-before-we-throw-the-towel-in motivation isn't harped on as much as The Bucket List, but it's that Danny Glover "I'm getting too old for this sh*t" attitude that gives it momentum.

You get the impression that director Ken Kwapis and star Robert Redford were looking to stoke up some nostalgia from Redford's days opposite Paul Newman in The Sting and Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. The chemistry isn't quite as magical without the late Newman, but Nolte's haggard take-it-as-it-comes energy makes a wonderful contrast with Redford's cool and in-control composure.

A Walk in the Woods had the opportunity to go much deeper than its breezy buddy movie turned adventure comedy tag, but like Bryson's continuous insistence that he won't write about their experiences, it was never meant to be some grand philosophical narrative about shuffling off one's mortal coil. If you want heartrending trail drama watch Martin Sheen in The Way, A Walk in the Woods is there to chuckle and enjoy the triumphs and misadventures of these two old pals.

The bottom line: Breezy

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