A Walk in the Woods is a film that much like the characters in the film, takes you on a journey from one point to another, but gets derailed by much of the distractions along the way. It can be seen as a fun film, but don’t expect much from what is essentially a light-hearted journey of two very different people on a pathway that isn’t perhaps what they expected.
The film follows a near-retired author Bill Bryson played by Robert Redford, who one day after a bad TV interview highlights the dullness that his life has become, decides to hike the Appalachian mountain trail – a 3500 odd kilometers long journey. You never really learn his reasons for this and that does take away somewhat from the movies ability to draw you in, but at the end of the day, it’s a film about the events in the journey more than the destination of the journey itself.
Bryson’s wife, played by Emma Thompson, won’t let him take the treacherous journey on his own and insists that he needs to find a partner to travel with before being allowed to go on this journey. In the end, the only person crazy enough to volunteer for the perilous journey is a very unfit and wild long-lost friend, Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte) whose reasons for wanting to go on the trip are perhaps the biggest mystery that is unraveled during the course of the journey.
Along the way they will bump into a variety of different hikers and other characters who are perhaps rather clichéd and expected, though serve to take much of the focus off the leads’ journey and rather put them in situations which are intended to further the humour of the film. Some moments work, most tend to miss the mark.
A Walk in The Woods is a difficult movie to enjoy. The two characters happen to place themselves in many bizarre situations and while some of the scenes in the film can be hilariously funny, the overall film isn’t and the drama in the story doesn’t really do enough to captivate you either, so it fails to achieve what it sets out to. The problem lies that the film’s plot is quite aimless and although it sets up many growth opportunities for the characters, it doesn’t really achieve anything by the films conclusion. The screenplay, by Michael Arndt and Bill Holderman is based off a book by the character Bill Bryson himself, tends to focus too much on creating comedic antics than trying to set up anything engaging.
The director, Ken Kwapis (License to Wed, He’s Just Not That Into You) does his best to try and work around the script and for the most part the direction is adequate enough and sets out in getting the comedic mood of the film right. The scenic vistas used at various stages of the journey are perhaps its highlight and to be honest, who can blame the director as the scenery is quite beautiful most of the time. The director does allow time in each different situation to establish some aspect of it lead or minor characters, even if it’s never built on again. It’s difficult to really fault the direction, as he does what can be done with the plot.
The dialogue is often clumsy and mostly meanders along, though there is a lot of subtle humour in the riposte between both leads. The acting is never bad and as you would expect with establish actors, they certainly hold their own with the material – even if the material at their disposal lets them down. The film also stars Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal in minor roles.
It’s not that A Walk in the Woods is a bad film, it’s just a pointless one and never feels like it’s going anywhere. The characters go on a journey to nowhere and the film feels the same way. The film can do as a light-hearted viewing experience, but it will frustrate you if you expect anything more than a few laughs out of it.
A Walk in the Wood is available now on DVD.
Last Updated: March 23, 2016