We have seen movies about the quarter-life crises, like “The Graduate” (1967), “Garden State” (2004), and “The Worlds End” (2013). We have seen midlife-crises movies like “8 1/2” (1963), “American Beauty” (1999), and “The Incredibles” (2004). What we don’t see a lot of, however, is the three-quarter life crises movie. We rarely see movies about people in their elder years looking back at life and realizing, after seeing friends and loved ones die, that they haven’t fulfilled their life yet or that they aren’t completely satisfied with how their lives have panned out, no matter how successful they might be.
And that is exactly what “A Walk in the Woods” is: a three-quarter life crises buddy comedy filled with heart and plenty of laughs.
Author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) returns to America after living in England for over two decades. After a friend passes away, Bryson decides to forgo retiring and walk the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. His wife (Emma Thompson) won’t let him go on the trail alone, in fear of his mid-seventies self dying, so Bryson calls up several friends asking if they will join him on this ambitious journey. Almost all of them say no, thinking that Bryson is crazy. The only who says yes is Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), an out of shape former alcoholic with two new knees who needs to eat hourly or else he will have a seizure. Against better judgement, the two set off on the trail, where they meet a slew of characters, encounter bears, and reminisce about life, past and present.
Redford and Nolte are both great and look like they are having a ball through out the entire movie. Redford hasn’t flashed his comedic chops since 1992’s “Sneakers” and he doesn’t miss a beat, with his quick wit, dry sarcasm, and dumbfounded facial expressions. Nolte, in a role that was originally meant for the late Paul Newman, plays the bumbling Katz to perfection. It’s great physical comedy from Nolte, which hasn’t been seen from any comedian in a long time. Scenes where Katz can’t seem to walk through a door without struggle or when he gets stuck escaping through a window are tear-inducingly hilarious. I don’t think Newman could have pulled off this clumsy dope as well as Nolte. Emma Thompson adds heart to the film as Bryson’s concerned and just as witty wife Catherine, and Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal add funny supporting turns as well.
One of my favorite parts of the movie was how easy it was to watch. There isn’t a lot of real drama through out the film, which is a slight flaw, as I wish Bryson and Katz had a deeper rooted history that boiled over at some point. But, there isn’t any elder year’s cliche’s like one of them having cancer or something. There are also a couple plot-holes here and there and some scenes ending randomly, but those are easily overlooked because of the performances, story, and comedy.
“A Walk in the Woods” is a far better movie than I anticipated. It is a buddy comedy that, even with its flaws, is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I’ve had in 2015. It’s sweet, funny, filled with heart, and features two terrific performances from two great actors. This is the perfect three-quarter life crises comedy.
MY RATING – 3/4
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