A Walk in the Woods

Rated 2.0

A Walk in the Woods is based on a memoir by travel writer Bill Bryson, but everything about the film feels artificial, like a failed pilot for a channel you'd downgrade cable plans in order to avoid. Stubbornly resisting old age and obsolescence, Bryson (Robert Redford) determines to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, bringing along his estranged ex-travel buddy Stephen (Nick Nolte) when everyone else refuses the invitation. The script is almost shockingly unfunny, hitting a succession of depressingly expected notes, right down to the pouring-out-the-booze-on-the-mountainside-because-you-don't-need-it-anymore-because-hiking moment. It borrows the nature-as-therapy conceit of Wild, but uses it as a springboard for body-double pratfalls and pandering vulgarity. Redford succumbs to the dreck, literally at one point, but Nolte keeps it real, his wind-beaten ramshackleness and smashed-cornet squeal of a voice becoming the film's only finger holds on authenticity. D.B.