A Walk in the Woods: Book to Movie Review

I love seeing some of my favorite books turned into movies.  Most of the time, the movie doesn’t do the book justice, but it’s still fun to relive a good book on the big screen.  Today, I took the afternoon to see the newly released movie A Walk in the Woods.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods was written by Bill Bryson and originally published in 1999.  It is author Bill Bryson’s own account of his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail with his screwball friend Stephen Katz.  Together, they set out to discover the 2,100 miles of wilderness that lay spread across mountains from Georgia to Maine.  Having little to no experience in hiking, their adventure turns into one of hilarity and mishap.  The movie captures this well.

Robert Redford stars as Bryson, with Nick Nolte teaming up as his sidekick Katz.  This was the most striking difference that I noticed between the book and the movie.  In the book, Bryson is an out of shape middle-aged guy nearing his fifties.  He has a wife and high school age children at home.  In the movie, however, both Bryson and Katz are well past retirement age, obvious as Redford is 79 and Nolte just 5 years his junior.  This trek was daunting enough for Katz and Bryson in their earlier years.  I would expect it to be nearly impossible for someone nearing their 80’s.

That one major difference aside, I felt that the movie did an excellent job paying tribute to the book.  I chuckled through the movie and was glad that it wasn’t all raunchy slapstick like most comedies aim for today.  That isn’t to say that it is a family movie.  Just as in the book, Katz is crude and offensive, managing to slip the f-word into every other sentence.  I imagine it wasn’t too much of a stretch for Nick Nolte.  He played the character well!

Comedic actress Kristen Schaal plays Mary Ellen, the obnoxious and often aggravating female hiker that tags along with Bryson and Katz for several days on their journey north.  Sadly, she played only a short role on screen.

I really enjoyed this movie.  It isn’t deep or meaningful, but if you are looking for that then I would recommend reading the book.  A Walk in the Woods explores the iconic history of the Appalachian Trail, as well as the harebrained adventures of two lifelong friends.  Go read the book, then have a good laugh at Redford and Nolte as they bring it to life on the big screen.