A Walk in the Woods review – Robert Redford takes an uphill trudge

Stripping out most of Bill Bryson’s prose and wit, this adaptation with Redford and Nick Nolte leaves us with a sentimental tale of two old geezers taking a hike

A Walk in the Woods is based on Bill Bryson’s travel book about attempting to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail in the US with an old friend. It strips out most of Bryson’s prose and wit and leaves us with a folksy-sentimental tale about a couple of adorable old geezers tottering through the woods, like Statler and Waldorf without the laughs. At 79 years old, producer-star Robert Redford plays Bill Bryson, who was in his mid-40s when he undertook the hike. The movie’s geriatric themes can therefore be described as semi-intentional, and Redford’s performance is really so stilted it’s as if he is playing Bill Bryson the way a famous writer with no performing skills might play himself.

Pottering in and out of the kitchen, Redford’s Bryson gives us huge “reaction” expressions and broad double takes of the sort I remember Peter Glaze doing on Crackerjack. Emma Thompson does her best with the thankless role of Bryson’s wife. Having reportedly nursed this project for years, Redford originally hoped Paul Newman might play Bryson’s cantankerous old buddy. There’s a jokey scene that does look like a riff on their great Butch-and-Sundance leap of faith. Sadly, mortality got in the way, so now it’s a red-faced and dishevelled Nick Nolte playing Katz. An uphill trudge.

Watch the trailer for A Walk in the Woods – video


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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