Every year, thousands of hikers start one of the toughest trails in America—the Appalachian Trail. In 2014, an estimated 3,369 hikers started the 2,000+ mile journey, with just over 900 actually walking the trail in its entirety. With only one in every four hikers completing the trail, it’s amazing that Bill Bryson and his friend Stephen Katz thought that they themselves could finish the hike at the ripe old ages of 44 and some less-than-ideal levels of physical fitness. What’s a little less amazing is that Bryson, being a famous travel writer, went on to write a book about his experience. And what’s not in the least bit shocking is that his book has now been adapted for the big screen.
A Walk in the Woods is your typical inspirational comedy—not very funny because it’s trying to be too inspirational, and not very inspirational because you’re being bombarded with crude humor. The relationship between Bryson (Robert Redford) and Katz (Nick Nolte) is portrayed very well, though, and makes up for a slow story line. They’re banter back-and-forth as they trudge their way up the never-ending mountains does call for some legitimate laughs, Redford and Nolte work well as friends who, at times, can only just barely tolerate one another, and Nolte’s entire performance as Katz is so believable that you want to smack Bryson when he calls him out about hiding a bottle of whiskey in his pack because you could tell from the look in Katz’s eyes that the bottle was only in there because letting go of something that was so much a part of your life is even harder than trekking 2,000+ miles.
Environmentally speaking, the movie is actually pretty realistic. Hikers from 5 to 86-years-old have been reported to travel along the trail, some with disabilities, so it’s not inconceivable that these two men would attempt the hike. It’s even possible that they would have run into some black bears—they did leave their backpacks with their food outside on the ground, and they weren’t carrying any bear spray or bells to deter the animals from entering the campsite. Probably the most unbelievable thing about the movie was that neither of the two complained about blisters, but director Ken Kwapis said in an interview that they “made a choice to put more emphasis on the emotional journey.”
You can tell the actors were all putting forth their best effort for this movie—Nolte worked so hard that he had to have hip replacement surgery once shooting wrapped up—and the film is enjoyable for those who are looking for something a bit more relaxing. For those looking for some excitement, though, the film may not keep your attention. More action could have drawn in a younger crowd, but more action would have called for younger actors, potentially taking away from the onset chemistry. While this Walk seemed to be more of a shamble to me, I wouldn’t risk picking up the pace if it meant leaving behind Redford and Nolte.
4/10 if you’re a youngin’
7/10 for those with a little more experience in life
Where is your favorite place to hike? Comment below!
Images courtesy of Route One Films