Friday, September 18, 2015

Movie Review: A Walk in the Woods

I've read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods twice (see "Good Reads: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson" from June 2013). I really enjoy that book. It relates the author's attempt -- with his friend Stephen Katz -- to hike the Appalachian Trail (see "The Big 3 Hiking Trails of the Continental U.S.A." from June 2013). So when I learned that there was a movie being made by the same name of the book, I was eager to watch it.

Donna and I went to see the movie recently. I was entertained by the movie. After all, I'm a fan of Robert Redford; I have been since I first saw him in The Chase, which also starred Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda. Jeremiah Johnson ranks up there as one of my favorite all-time movies, as much for the scenery as for the story. But Redford -- who is cast as Byrson -- is pushing 80 years old. When Bryson published his book in 1998, he was under 50 years of age. That's a big age difference, and it made me wonder just how accurately the movie would follow the book.

Well, the movie does not accurately follow the book, nor does it pretend too. The movie is only loosely based on the book. If you are a fan of the book, you will see many, many deviations from the book, such as the scene with the bears. But the spirit of the book does find some life in the movie, and the movie takes on a life of its own.

Basically, Bryson (Redford) and his childhood friend Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) set out to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. They are old geysers, and part of the movie deals with both of them facing the reality of their lives. As in the book, Katz is the central comic figure in the movie. The scenery is beautiful and made both Donna and me want to find a trail and set out.

Don't look for the movie to even follow the basic plot of the book. It doesn't. But it seems to work. I had hoped that the movie would deal more with hiking the Appalachian Trail, such as gear, trail shelters, and trail life, but it dealt with these only briefly if at all. And if colorful language upsets you, this is probably not a movie you need to watch. I was put off with the language, and I did not see that it really contributed to the plot at all.

But I enjoyed the movie. I find it harder and harder to find movies that entertain me these days. So many veer way off into a fantasy world of unbelievable, choreographed stunts that I'm frustrated by the whole thing. At least A Walk in the Woods stayed grounded.

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