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Movie Review

A Walk in the Woods

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual references.

Reviewed by: Bob Subjenski—first time reviewer

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adventure Comedy Drama
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 2, 2015 (wide—1,960+ theaters)
DVD: December 29, 2015
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Broad Green Pictures

failure to pay debts

importance of friendship



Featuring: Robert RedfordBill Bryson
Nick NolteStephen Katz
Emma ThompsonCatherine Bryson
Mary SteenburgenJeannie
Nick Offerman … REI Dave
more »
Director: Ken Kwapis—“He's Just Not That Into You” (2009), “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (2005), “License to Wed” (2007)
Producer: Route One Films
Wildwood Enterprises
Distributor: Broad Green Pictures

“When you push yourself to the edge, the real fun begins.”

File, “A Walk in The Woods” in the “What could have been” folder. Actor Robert Redford originally envisioned the film as an opportunity to reunite with Paul Newman, his “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting” co-star. Those two films won a total of 11 Oscars between them, including Best Picture for “The Sting,” and we can only speculate what could have been if Mr. Newman hadn’t become too ill to get involved with the project. The script collected dust on the shelf until Mr. Redford, who co-starred with Nick Nolte for the first time in 2013’s “The Company You Keep” felt he was perfect for the role intended for Mr. Newman.

We are introduced at the very beginning of the film to Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), a very successful author who decides, after the funeral of a friend, to challenge himself by hiking The Appalachian Trail. Catherine (Emma Thompson), his wife of 40 years, is strongly opposed to it, but knowing that he won’t take no for an answer gets him to agree to only go if he takes someone along. After many calls and many rejections, Stephen (Nick Nolte), an old friend Bill lost contact with many years before, suddenly calls and asks to join him on the hike. Once they set off on the trail, they encounter numerous situations, both physical and emotional, any of which could derail their quest to walk the entire trail and even endanger their lives.

Objectionable Issues

On a positive note, there is zero nudity, and the violence is extremely mild and, at times, comical. There are several mildly sexual situations and conversation in the film, but nothing is too overboard, although Stephen has clearly been a philanderer. The greatest issue with the film is its unusually high amount of curse words throughout. I counted 14 f**k, 18 s**t, 6 h*ll, 1 ba***d, 3 g*d d**m, 3 p***y, 1 bl***b, 2 b***h, and 2 b**bs. That definitely ruined, for me, what otherwise was a fine movie.

Positive Lessons

Bill and Stephen were once very close friends, having shared many an adventure together. As the years went by they grew apart and eventually lost touch. We discover Bill has been harboring some anger over money Stephen owes him. We see how this adventure helps Bill forgive Stephen, which is what the Bible teaches us to do.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. —Colossians 3:13

A married man, who is faced with unexpected flirtatious temptation, remains faithful to his wife. Hebrews 13:4 reminds us to “give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. He chooses to walk away from the situation rather then risk falling into the temptation.

The beauty of creation is pointed out, although, unfortunately, God isn’t given any credit for being the Creator.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth!” —Genesis 1:1

That part of the film could be used as a starting point towards sharing with someone how majestic God truly is.

This film is geared for an older, mature audience which isn’t easily offended by multiple instances of swearing and vulgarity. I would DEFINITELY NOT bring young children to see it.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I am writing as a prejudiced reviewer. I absolutely love Bill Bryson’s book about his walk on the Appalachian Trail, which I have read three times. It is chock full of researched information, which is his style, plus his salty humor. And it’s autobiographical. A true story. I was very sure I would not like movie version, but I was curious to see it anyway. How could it possibly do the book justice, especially with the much older Robert Redford and Nick Nolte? But the movie nailed the book. The distinctive personalities of Bryson and his childhood pal, Katz, who joined him on this hike, were expressed perfectly, as well as the spirit in which they undertook this hefty task of hiking.

The movie did not ruin the book for me, and I will re-read it to see the portions used in the movie. It is R rated for language and some salacious content and deserves that R-rating. Nick Nolte’s performance of the role of Stephen Katz is so perfect, he deserves to be nominated for an award. I enjoyed the movie immensely, but I am not necessarily an objective observer. I am curious to hear how people who have not read the book feel about the movie as entertainment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Halyna Barannik, age 69 (USA)
Positive—We need more movies like this and less guns shooting. A great movie for a change; hope they come up with another. Great job.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
— Fencl, age 50 (USA)
Neutral—The beautiful cinematography, artful acting and pleasant story are offset by a high level of profanity that serves no purpose and is a world away from Bill Bryson’s writing style. I haven’t read this book, but the dialogue fell a little short of the magic I have found in other Bryson works.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Brian Schacht, age 68 (Canada)
Movie Critics

…warmly entertaining… released from the shackles of his serious stereotype, Redford glorifies every gag in the script. … [3/4]
—Colin Covert, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

…too much of the breezy humor that made the book a delight is stripped away, replaced with predictable jokes and broad slapstick, sitcom-quality encounters with women and bears and a pushy, grating sentimentality. … [2/4]
—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

…Redford and Nolte are worth the trip… “A Walk in the Woods” is a call to get off the couch… [3/5]
—Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

…too episodic and has lots of strong foul language and some crude innuendoes…
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide

…breezy entertainment… A delightful journey with fine star turns by Redford and Nolte that should prove a good draw for finicky older audiences. …
—Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

…quite a few content concerns here. You know, like the foul language Redford and Nolte toss back and forth. And the sexual allusions…
—Paul Asay, Plugged In

…consistently deliver the belly laughs… jaw-dropping scenery and a story that doesn't always go where we expect, makes for a pretty enjoyable stroll.
—Christa Banister, Crosswalk

…vaguely amusing… the movie largely refuses to tackle anything weightier than creaking bones and resilient libido. …it is unexpectedly moving and occasionally delightful…
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

…Fuddy and duddy… When it isn’t trying to nudge you in the ribs, “A Walk in the Woods” has some reliably gorgeous scenery to rely on, and the more earnest talk about lives lived and not-lived does approach certain levels of grace… [2/4]
—David Berry, National Post

…lame and unfunny… “A Walk in the Woods” is broad as a barn door, with two stars who have minimal chemistry…
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post

…A nice comedy team alleviates the tedium of “A Walk in the Woods.”…
—Kristian Lin, Fort Worth Weekly

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