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Sundance Reviews: Robert Redford Vehicle ‘A Walk in the Woods’ Is a Slog

Sundance Reviews: Robert Redford Vehicle 'A Walk in the Woods' Is a Slog

Based on Bill Bryson’s 1998 memoir, “A Walk in the Woods,” directed by Ken Kwapis from a script by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman, failed to impress critics when it premiered at Sundance last Friday. The film stars festival founder Robert Redford as the aging Bryson, determined to shake things up by hiking the Appalachian Trail with his old friend, Katz (Nick Nolte). Other cast members include Emma Thompson, Nick Offerman, and Kristen Schaal.

Despite echoes of “Wild” and Redford’s celebrated man-versus-nature turn in “All Is Lost,” however, “Woods” does not manage to spin the sparring between the grizzled leads into either comedy gold or a meditation on growing old. Most early reviews have pegged the film as a predictable — if pleasant — diversion, too insubstantial to have much impact beyond the name recognition of the cast.
 
Daniel Fienberg, Hitfix:

“Surely there’s an audience out there in the world for ‘Grumpy Old Outdoorsmen,’ even if Robert Redford & Nick Nolte are no Matthau & Lemmon. But there’s absolutely no way to shake the certainty that were one of
its stars not the Founder & Grand Poobah of The Festival, Sundance
never would have glanced in the direction of a film as mediocre as ‘A
Walk in the Woods.'”

Brian Moylan, The Guardian:
“Most of these episodes are far too low-stakes to carry a movie and the
bigger picture, about two men past their prime trying to figure out what
to do in their dotage, is handled far too simply to have real impact.
The result is something that is just fine. It’s pleasant enough to
watch, but by no means riveting or revolutionary.”

Dennis Harvey, Variety:
“There’s light diversion but little substance in this tale of two
grumpy old men making a predictable hash of their effort to hike the
Appalachian Trail. The appeal of the cast names and the equally
venerable scenic vistas should lure older audiences, though whether
they’ll get out to theaters or wait for home-format delivery is an open
question.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
“Rather like a fun, geriatric version of ‘Wild,’ this long-aborning film version of Bill Bryson’s enormously genial 1998 book ‘A Walk in the Woods’
is a jolly good time, sparking dozens of chuckles and a few strong
laughs. Nothing special cinematically, it still provides a welcome
showcase for wonderful star turns by Robert Redford, who also produced, and Nick Nolte.”

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