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Redford & Nolte 'Walk in the Woods'

by Ron Tipton, ATC's executive director/CEO

It is not possible to watch the Sundance premiere of Robert Redford’s production of “A Walk in the Woods” without comparing it to its Pacific Crest Trail movie counterpart “Wild.” While Redford and his sidekick Nick Nolte (playing book author Bill Bryson and his long-lost high school buddy Stephen Katz) are far removed from Reese Witherspoon, there are important thematic connections that make “A Walk” very special in its own way.

As Director Ken Kwapis said in introducing the film last night, there are three co-stars: Redford, Nolte and the Appalachian Trail. Members of the audience I talked to marveled at the beauty, challenge and unique hiking experience of hiking the beginning in Georgia in the spring. The story line centers on Bryson as an accomplished aging travel writer looking for adventure and Katz as a grizzled, obese and human wreck prone to sexist observations about women of all ages and body sizes. Yet this mismatch of characters quickly becomes a charming and sometimes endearing account of their search for meaning in life as they trudge through the Southern Appalachians. It is a challenging journey that reveals deep personal rewards for both of them as they absorb the experience of the world’s most-famous long distance hiking trail.

“A Walk in the Woods” is a comedy that grows on you as Bryson and Katz re-connect their long-time friendship. Redford play the straight man with a philosophical dignity as he responds to Nolte’s earthy observations about life, people and hiking the Trail. As the story moves north through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, it grows in charm, humor and a genuine love of life and an appreciation for the 2,100 mile Trail.

There are funny moments throughout as the stars meet characters on and off the Trail. Young and highly annoying fellow thru-hiker Mary Ellen creates a classic confrontation of style with the aging duo. And my favorite moment in the book – Katz’s “date” with the very large Beulah who he meets in the laundromat as she attempts to salvage her panties from the washing machine—is truly a laugh out loud experience.

“A Walk in the Woods” will certainly appeal as did last night at Sundance to those who hike and an older audience that identify with the story and the characters. I heard numerous rave reviews after the movie. Will it also attract a younger and broader audience?



Leave a comment
  1. Heather | Jun 11, 2016
    I read the book and laughed my butt off and when the movie came out I was excited to see it, but did not have a chance to see it in the theatre.  I got it on DVD and watched it and was waiting to laugh my butt off again, but was disappointed in the movie.  It was not as funny or informative of the AT as it could have been. 

    Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are great actors and their skills as actors could have been put to better use in the movie. 

    Just my opinion on the movie compared to the book.
  2. Psul | Mar 11, 2016
    I enjoyed the movie however there was an unecessary amount of cussing in it... Really took away from the story.
  3. Hiker | Mar 08, 2016
    I was disappointed, I didn't care for the movie.  It gave a good idea of the difficulty of the trail, but the mostly came across as a couple of dirty old men that I would avoid.  The book was much better and I don't remember it having such connotations in it. I guess sex sells better than nature.
  4. Lois | Feb 22, 2016
    Is the movie available from RedBox?
  5. Michelle | Feb 21, 2016
    Thought the movie was just a juvenile buddy movie. Really disappointed that there was NO environmental message or point of view. 
  6. Will Donahue | Jan 21, 2016
    This slight, lightly charming comic adventure is most obviously appealing for the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" set — though Bryson himself was in his forties when he made his journey!
  7. Jhon | Nov 29, 2015
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  9. Mark Rothenhauser | Oct 22, 2015
    Trail name:  The Fly, Cat Scratch Fever, Dirty Deeds, Dr. Detroit, Katz (take you pick)

    That last one seems appropriate.

    I have hiked the trail in many large sections since 1999.  Some sections (like Virginia) I have repeated several times.  Aside from experiencing the wonders of The Trail, I've come across my share of characters along the way.

    Having said that, it was kind of cool seeing the places I have already been to in the "Walk In The Woods" movie.  Almost surreal!  I thought that Nick Nolte made an excellent Katz, although it appears that the years were not especially kind to him.  Watching the movie, he did teach me a new word: pantyologist.  My only complaint with the casting was that they could have made Mary Ellen a little more "bitchier".  I was also a little disappointed that they did not include a few more trail character, such as Baltimore Jack or Ward Leonard.  But I guess there is only so much you can do in a two hour film.

    I'm not sure that I would call this movie a comedy.  Don't get me wrong: it did have its funny moments.  But somehow I have a problem connecting the A.T. experience with laughs.  Perhaps somebody can straighten me out on this.  Just don't go pushing me off a cliff should you see me out there

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