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

Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

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.

share and enjoy
If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Mon, Apr 04, 2016 6:06pm

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.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
reply to  RogerBW
Sun, Apr 17, 2016 11:38pm

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.

reply to  Tonio Kruger
Mon, Apr 18, 2016 9:23am

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”.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Wed, Apr 20, 2016 9:53am

And without understanding why *Wild* was so important.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Wed, Apr 20, 2016 9:58am

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.

Mon, Apr 04, 2016 11:31pm

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

Eminently miss-able.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
reply to  LaSargenta
Tue, Apr 26, 2016 7:18pm

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.