Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Movie Review #308: "A Walk in the Woods" (2015)

Movie"A Walk in the Woods"
Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: Ken Kwapis
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
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In an attempt to regain some meaning in his life, aging author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) decides to hike the Appalachian trail and is accompanied by his old friend Stephan (Nick Nolte) who Bill knew in his wilder days. 

Based on a book by travel writer Bill Bryson, "A Walk in the Woods" is his story of reconnecting to his roots, his homeland, after decades in England with his wife and a long book tour. Upon returning home, he has to attend the funeral of a friend who has just passed away. You can tell Bill, who is a senior citizen, feels like he is in a rut in his life, so he decides to fill it by hiking the Appalachian trail. His wife Catherine, played by the always charming Emma Thompson, doesn't want him to go because she thinks, nay, knows, he is too old to do so. At an impasse after he makes up his mind, Catherine tells Bill he simply cannot go alone, so after calling literally everyone he can think of, he is contacted by an old pal named Stephen Katz, played by perpetual lobster and former Sexiest Man Alive 1992 Nick Nolte, who is an overweight former and recovering alcoholic, and also has been out of contact with Bill for decades. He is about the same age as Bill, which doesn't exactly put Catherine's mind at ease. Eventually, being the only one who wants a go at the A.T., Bill agrees to go with Katz, even with all of the above and more obstacles in their way.

In reality, Bryson is much younger than Redford, who is in his late 70's. Bryson has just recently hit his 60's and was just 44 when he attempted to walk the Appalachian trail with his real-life buddy Stephen Katz. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of the film, and although we're not here to pick apart differences between reality and cinematic, the age gap presents a stark difference and changes the meaning of the original intended content from the book to the silver screen. The new, slightly altered message, along with the entertainment value of the film is what winds up on screen, and really that's all that matters. The "life is fleeting" set-up begins early on, reinforcing the notion that you're never too old to do what you want to do, culminating in the eventual hiking of the 2,000 plus mile Appalachian trail. The two men, who are clearly unprepared and lacking any real physical condition, set out on their journey with pretty hilarious results. At its base level, the sheer absurdity of two unprepared senior citizens trying to hike the Appalachian trail provides a lot of humor. Much of it is self-deprecating geriatric jokes, insane and wacky scenarios the two find themselves in, and the rest is from some great dialogue and a hell of a lot of banter between not only Bryson and Katz, but others they meet on their journey.

Ultimately, we really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of laughs which some critics have called "forced," but we didn't feel that way, and judging by the amount of laughs this movie produced in our theater, no one else felt this way, either.  To put it in perspective, we laughed more here than we have at some of the other "comedies" put out this year, so with that in mind, it's a success in our book. Sure, we've seen this kind of content before in other, better movies, but at its core, we feel like "A Walk in the Woods" wasn't really meant to be an epic film, but rather, a charming and often times funny conversation about growing old, growing apart, needing to find something to fill a void, and wanting to prove the years wrong. It's not likely to change many minds and lives and hearts, but it sure was a nice distraction for an hour and  44 minutes, though it is hard to hear Nick Nolte talk with such a raspy voice.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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