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Friday, September 11, 2015

A Walk in the Woods 2015 * * * Stars

A Walk in the WoodsDirector: Ken Kwapis
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson

Here are four things I picked up on while viewing 2015's A Walk in the Woods (my latest review): 1. hikers like the ones portrayed in the film, are really annoying. You literally want to shake them and say, "what's your glitch man". 2. "Woods" is a lot more vulgar than I thought. You have Robert Redford's character playing straight man to Nick Nolte's perverted old geezer. 3. this thing is based on a book by Bill Bryson. It is constructed on actual memoirs of him and his buddy attempting to stroll the infamous Appalachian Trail. He was in his forties when it all went down. Redford and Nolte are ages 79 and 74 respectively. I guess non-fiction goes straight out the window doesn't it? 4. A Walk in the Woods reminded me of Reese Witherspoon's Wild which came out a year ago. Both flicks deal with traveling thousands of miles by foot. The difference with Wild, is that it's a little more symbolic, much more depressing, and not jokey. Either way, you still gotta bring the big backpack, plenty of protein, and a shovel (for the smelly excrement of course).

With sumptuous scenery and a folklore soundtrack, "Woods" chronicles successful writer, Bill Bryson (Redford). He's got it all, a warm family and lots of best-selling books to his name. The problem is that he's bored and for certain reasons unknown, wants to hike from Georgia to Maine. His loving wife (Catherine Bryson played by Emma Thompson) is against his plight. She eventually caves in and only lets him go if he agrees to have one of his friends accompany him. Bill calls a bunch of his peers with all of them saying, "uh, no thanks". The one galoot that jumps at the chance, is Bryson's past acquaintance in Stephen Katz (Nolte). Katz is unmarried, wanted by the law, and loves hardcore junk food. Together they go on a journey, walking many miles and stopping at lots of rundown hotels. Chaos ensues in the form of a jealous boyfriend, two drunk drivers, some vicious grizzly bears, and a slippery cliff. In your mind, you're just gonna have to revert back to 2013's Last Vegas. It's the concept involving a band of old timers getting thrusted into a world of cocky twenty-year-olds deemed more astute and definitely more agile.

In terms of casting, the original plan was to have Redford use his buddy (the late Paul Newman) as his unequivocal comic foil. The two of them could have their Sundance moment and we'd get the full-on, Newman-Redford trilogy (you can't leave out The Sting you know). Oh well, I've always worshiped old Hud Bannon and may he rest in peace. But Nolte with his ragged, teddy bear looks, probably would still be a more humorous option anyway (since "Woods" is advertised as a comedy). As for Redford bringing the funny, well I've never seen him in that capacity. Alas, he channels the dry here and becomes the effortless yin to Nolte's yang.

All in all, this is quietly, a nanoscale film. It's also harmless and relatively wholesome. And despite A Walk in the Woods being utilized with forced, slapstick antics and references to fellatio (add various jokes about fellatio and an actual, masked act of fellatio to that list), the actors pull you through with a couple of poignant moments towards the end. Redford and Nolte have pretty good chemistry and I didn't think that was possible (I'm glad I was wrong). They fit into their roles like comfortable old shoes that have been worn for months. Bob's Bill is closed off, conservative, uptight, and preset. Nick's Stephen is fancy-free, inflamed, and a dodging man child. Together they are polar opposites but likable enough, a sort of Harold & Kumar for the AARP generation.

Now do they make it across the rugged trail in one piece? You'll have to see the movie to find out. Does it really matter though? Not entirely. After viewing "Woods", I realized that this so-called walk is instead, more of a hidden metaphor than anything else. It's ultimately about long lost friendship, having the courage to stay clearheaded for many a year, missing your soulmate, and finding out who one truly is. Bottom line: A simple premise, two legendary actors, and nature equals a pretty decent afternoon at the multiplex. And when Redford flashes that golden boy smile (his monumental trademark) via the last five minutes of the proceedings, you'll know that it's all good in these "woods". My rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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