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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

A Walk in the Woods movie review: ramble on and on

A Walk in the Woods yellow light

A sitcom about old men creaking along the Appalachian Trail, reminiscing about slutty girls, and maybe having a stroke at any moment. You know, for fun.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Remember Wild, in which Reese Witherspoon hikes a demanding thousand-mile-long Pacific Coast trail because her life is a mess and she needs to recenter herself and find a way through all her many troubles to a new beginning? A Walk in the Woods is exactly like that… except it’s about a privileged old guy who has everything and whose life is in great shape but he’s feeling, you know, a little blah, so why not walk the entire Appalachian Trail? Robert Redford (Truth) is writer Bill Bryson, and he is joined on this “one last adventure” by an old pal, Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte (Return to Sender), who looks terrifyingly unhealthy, like he might burst an artery at any moment. Alarmingly, much of the humor here — for this is intended to be a comedy — tends toward “isn’t it hilarious how ominously near a stroke Katz might be?” when it isn’t about Katz pointing out how every misadventure they run into on the trail will be great in Bryson’s book about their hike, which prompts Bryson to testily snap that he’s not writing a book. (Note: this movie is based on Bryson’s book about their hike.) Mostly, this is a sitcom about creaky old men reminiscing about slutty girls they once knew, occasionally witnessing slutty girls in action (women who like sex are held up for comic ridicule here), and once in a while running out on nice ladies, like poor Mary Steenburgen’s (The Help) motel owner, for whom the guys leave behind damage and an unpaid bill. Charming. Oh, and, spoiler (not really): they quit the trail halfway through, having learned just about nothing at all.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of A Walk in the Woods for its representation of girls and women.

yellow light 2.5 stars

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A Walk in the Woods (2015)
US/Can release: Sep 02 2015
UK/Ire release: Sep 18 2015

MPAA: rated R for language and some sexual references
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    It is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Hollywood remake of Wild for a male audience. Which is worth some small amount of amusement; I’ll take it where I can get it.

  • LaSargenta

    Given what I’ve read of Bill Bryson’s work, that sounds like what I’d expect.

    Eminently miss-able.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Er, the book this movie was based on was published in 1998 and existed long before anyone ever heard of either Wild or the 2012 book upon which Wild was based. However, it does seem like an amazing coincidence that Hollywood suddenly felt the need to make the Bryson book into a movie last year. After all, it’s not like Bill Bryson’s previous books have generated a lot of interest from Hollywood.

  • RogerBW

    I wasn’t suggesting the book was derivative, just that the filmmakers looked at the success of Wild and thought “we want some of that”.

  • And without understanding why *Wild* was so important.

  • RogerBW

    Well, y’know, like Wild but without all that icky girl stuff.

    Just shows how easy the job of film production is, that people can do crap like this and still make money at it.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I haven’t yet read A Walk in the Woods but I have read other books by the same author, and while I have yet to read a Bill Bryson book that I really hated, I must also admit that I have yet to read a book by him that I was all that eager to read again. He keeps getting good reviews for his work so someone obviously likes him; however, I prefer to think of his books as an acquired taste that I have chosen not to acquire.

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