You might think that a movie about two old men in their 70s walking the Appalachian Trail is the last thing you’d want to see as a hip young person on the dating scene. But I’m happy to report that the new movie “A Walk in the Woods” defies expectations and might just be, surprisingly, the funniest movie of the year, and any adult of any age is likely to enjoy it – making it the definition of ‘dateworthy.”
A Walk In The Woods
Starring Robert Redford in the best role he’s had this century, as well as Nick Nolte in the kind of career-capping role that could win him an Oscar next year, “Walk” is based on the wildly popular book of the same name by popular humorist and nature writer Bill Bryson. Redford plays Bryson, who in his senior years developed an itch to go on one last great manly adventure by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
But because his wife (Emma Thompson) finds a trove of news articles listing people who have died via accidents, animal attacks or outright murder along the trail while hiking solo, she is so worried that Bill decides to find a hiking partner to assuage her fears. He invites lots of friends, but everyone has an old-age excuse not to go – except for Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), the very definition of a frenemy, or friend/enemy, who still owes Bill $600 from a disastrous escapade they shared 40 years ago.
Bill wants to hike the entire trail, a total of five million steps up most of the East Coast through wilderness and mountains, in all kinds of weather from sunny to snow-driven. Stephen wants to cheat the process any chance he can, always looking for hotels to sleep in or a ride to move them up the road. Together, the comic differences between the reserved Bill and the earthy Stephen create comedy gold, and while there is profanity scattered fairly frequently throughout the movie, it’s the kind of good-natured man-to-man smack-talking that is nearly impossible to be offended by.
Redford looks like he’s having a ball, thankfully leaving behind the dreary political pseudo-thrillers that have constituted much of his output in the past decade. Nolte is a wonder to behold, using his genuinely craggy old looks and rough real life to give deep shadings to Stephen, especially in a couple of moving scenes where he discusses his lifelong struggle with alcohol – a battle Nolte has famously faced as well.
But more than that, Nolte’s timing and physical comedy sense is astonishingly well-used. Nearly every movement he makes from falling down to struggling through a doorway, is packed with little bits of motion that take the mundane to mirth.
Add in breathtaking scenery, a terrific supporting cast with name veterans like Mary Steenburgen and Nick Offerman in even the smallest roles, and a fantastic screenplay plus sterling direction from Ken Kwapis, and you’ll want to run, not walk to see this movie. Trust me, even if you’re way younger than the likely target audience of retirees, this is a highly enjoyable movie.