Adapted from travel writer Bill Bryson's 1998 memoir, "A Walk in the Woods" follows Bryson (Robert Redford) as he teams up with his estranged buddy, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Along the way, the pair reconnect, meet colorful characters, and learn some vaguely life-affirming lessons about nature and getting older.
With talented actors like Redford and Nolte as the leads, "Walk" is never less than watchable, but the toothless screenplay (from Bill Holderman and Rick Kerb) too frequently leaves them stranded with nowhere to go as the story sticks only to the most well-worn of paths. Nolte looks like he belongs next to the definition of "grizzled" in the dictionary and sounds like he's gargling with rusty nails, but the actor finds a cantankerous warmth in Katz - even though I never believed for a second he'd be capable of the physical exertion his character goes through in the film (while Bryson was in his late 40's when he set off on his journey, Redford is 79 and Nolte is 74).
Redford had been trying to get this film made for over a decade (he originally envisioned the project as a reunion for him and Paul Newman, though Newman's 2008 death forced him to scuttle the movie for many years), and it's easy to see what he saw in it: a humorous, heartfelt tale of environmentalism, all wrapped around a core of soft, gooey sentiment. With Newman, maybe the film could have been something special, but what we're left with is a trip that's barely worth taking.