Broad Green Pictures 104 Minutes R
This is not as sexy a “Wild” walk in the woods as Reese Witherspoon took in the Pacific Northwest last year. This is a more meandering one and for a very different reason along the Appalachian Trail on the East Coast. This adaptation of the book by Bill Bryson was originally meant for Robert Redford and Paul Newman in 1998 as reunion for the actors. But setbacks to get it made and Newman’s health kept it from getting it on the road.
Redford says he read the book on a vacation in 2002 and found himself laughing out loud often at the comedy. But he also found pathos in this story about a man who recently retired and feels compelled to challenge himself by walking the Appalachian trail, 2200 miles long. But the only friend he can find to take it on is an old codger who is a serial philanderer down on his luck and looking to get away from his creditors. Nick Nolte plays Katz. They are an unlikely pair.
Bryson took the challenge in his 40s. Redford and Nolte are both in their 70’s. Nolte says Redford asked him, point blank, if he had any physical problems that would cause a challenge. Nolte laughed and said, “Not anything that you wouldn’t collapse from first.”
Redford says he really enjoyed working with actors, Emma Thompson who plays his wife, and with Mary Steenburgen, a woman he meets at an inn on the trail.
Richard Linklater was also originally supposed to direct the film. But Director, Ken Kwapis, (The Office, He’s Just Not That Into You, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) got the nod. He cast Nick Offerman for the “wonky” part of REI Dave, knowing what he could do to embellish the role from his work on Parks and Recreation. He is very funny creating a character passionate about relaying every detail of the finest camping equipment.
This is the first feature for Rick Kerb and Bill Haldeman as screenwriters. The patter they’ve created for Redford and Nolte is believable and there are a few more laughs in the beginning. But it’s hard to understand Nolte at times, his voice is so raspy. Think Gabby Hayes if you are old enough and/or know old TV, whippersnappers.
Redford says he appreciated the Director’s style. It was “smart, kind, easy, “ and although he was tough, he understood that the film had to be funny and a combination of humor and pathos.
Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show) adds her own brand of wonky comedy playing a hiker confident enough to hike on her own because no one could possibly know more about the hiking the trail than she does.
Is this worth your bucks? This is one long walk. Sometimes tedious, the pace made us tired watching them. There are flashes of excellent comedic timing, especially in the REI scene. We were tense worrying about if these two could survive the ordeal particularly when Katz’ catting around produces an angry husband in a pick up truck.
The best part of this project is watching these pros play against each other and grow their relationship on-screen. This type of movie has to have spectacular scenery…and it does. The music also adds the right emotional touch. This late blooming coming of age film may make you think about crossing some items off your bucket list. It’s a pleasant trip, but you may not need to take this walk now.