Release Date: September 2, 2015
Director: Ken Kwapis
Writer: Rick Kerb (screenplay), Bill Holderman (screenplay), Bill Bryson (book), Michael Arndt (earlier script-uncredited)
Cast: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal, R. Keith Harris, Randall Newsome, Hayley Lovitt, Linds Edwards, Susan McPhail, Andres Vogel, Derek Krantz, Gaia Wise, Tucker Meek, Chandler Head, Sandra Ellis Lafferty, John Schmedes, Valentin Almendarez, Danny Vinson
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes
Production Company: Route One Films, Wildwood Enterprises, Broad Green Pictures
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
I’m not sure if it was poor marketing or my lack of interest, but I saw this without viewing a trailer for it. I didn’t know what to expect, other than great performances from Redford and Nolte, and I got that in hilarious fashion. Failing miserably at basics, it still excelled in others which carried the film along. Take my advice; if you’re in a bad mood watch ‘A Walk in the Woods.’ I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, with me not being the only one. What started out as a bore, suddenly transformed into a laughing powerhouse of mature stupidity that ended far too soon.
The whole film feels like a joke in on itself, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s no story or any checkpoint to look forward to, and if there were you’d soon forget. The mission is lost, the hope dries out, and you’re left in a dark abyss floating. From beginning to end I cared none, where the film was going or ended up. The actors didn’t appear as if they were even in a movie. They portrayed their characters as on a live show, performing off the crowd’s reactions. The sets on screen were set up the same looking atrocious, and painful on the eyes. It doesn’t snap you out the film, because you’re never in it.
I may sound completely negative, but the film is actually the opposite. While failing on so many levels fundamentally, the comedy comes in to save the day. I’ve never cared so little for a story, while still having so much fun. That’s a tribute to Nick Nolte’s and Robert Redford’s performance as they improvised every line. At least that’s what it feels like, as they bump their gums with no purpose, or care in the world. Bickering back and forth as in their own world, not to make the other crack and it worked. The adapted story of hiking thousands of miles, out of their league was inspirational. They flipped it in every way possible, shaking me to my core. I was shocked as I watched these two knuckle heads tripping over each other for two hours, with every step as random as a coin flip. Whether this was on purpose or accident, the approach was excellent, and I enjoyed every moment.
What didn’t work about the film didn’t matter. With low expectations, barely aware of release, and far from my own taste, I didn’t ask for much. What I got was a surprising spirit lift of life outdoors in a nonsensical way. The parts that tried to tell a story felt forced and unwelcomed. It served best to continue what worked instead of changing the game towards the end. This was a bold move, and can’t be just a coincidence. In any other situation this could be considered a film among the worst, but instead will be one to remember.
Not even realizing his work initially, director Ken Kwapis (Dunston Checks In, License to Wed, He’s Just Not That Into You) has always had a way to make you smile. This time around he took it to a whole other level that shouldn’t have worked but did. Containing no story arc or a plot to respect, ‘A Walk In The Woods’ moral message is just to go forward. To say F it, get out of my way because I’m doing something. It doesn’t matter if I fail or succeed, I’m going to do it because I can. It speaks on many levels, and I’m delighted to have witnessed, being one of the funniest bits of silliness I’ve seen in a while.