Just as summer ended and students were getting used to the long days of school and homework, “A Walk in the Woods” premiered, forcing everyone to re-evaluate how they spent their three months off.
Based on the nonfiction book by Bill Bryson, “A Walk in the Woods” tells the story of two men in their sixties who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail.
The name would suggest a leisurely film where two men have interesting adventures along the AT. While the movie was still very good, it was a little more fast-paced than what I was expecting. Bill Bryson, played by Robert Redford, and his friend Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte, are starting on the trail in what seems like a whirlwind.
From there, though, the movie follows the men perfectly, flowing well as they try to navigate the weather, people and pitfalls of the Appalachian Trail.
Unfortunately, the jokes and characters seemed a little overdone. Redford’s character is one we’ve seen dozens of times – a man who wants to get away from the city and enter nature, despite never having done it before. However, Redford was able to push past the cliche and create a character I can easily get behind. His performance was certainly heartwarming, a perfect match for the sullen and crude Stephen Katz.
Nolte’s character also starts out as a cliche, but by the end of the film he has pushed through the stereotypical character and shows that no matter what your age, you can still grow up. The source of most of the laughs in the film, Katz ended up becoming so much more than the comic relief.
I wish I had seen more of the beautiful landscapes on the Appalachian Trail. It seems like a wasted opportunity to set a movie in such a well-known place and not show more of it. The lack of more hikers was also a disappointment, though we do get a taste of the interesting people on the Trail when Kristen Schaal makes a short appearance. The amazing talent that appears in the film also made too short of an appearance. Nick Offerman and Emma Thompson were barely there, despite the need for more hikers. Kristen Schaal’s character Mary Ellen is comedic genius, but she’s barely a percentage of the diversity that makes up the people who choose to hike the Appalachian Trail.
The folksy soundtrack perfectly matches the scenery of the movie, transporting the audience to the Blue Ridge Mountains with Bryson and Katz. By the end of the film, you find yourself wishing you were there with them, falling in creeks and camping in the snow.
“A Walk in the Woods” gave me a new respect for the people who hike the Trail, while at the same time making me wonder if I could do it. Perhaps next summer, the film will have hundreds more hikers attempting the trek, taking pictures where Bryson and Katz stood, and wondering what the shovel is for.