It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
There is only one question that you need to ask yourself before deciding to see “A Walk in the Woods”: Can you justify sitting through an utterly predictable and rather tame man vs. nature ramble in order to enjoy the affable odd-couple chemistry shared by Robert Redford and Nick Nolte?
Certainly, it is hard to resist a rare opportunity to observe these seasoned septuagenarians go at it with gusto, especially considering that the only other time Redford and Nolte have been cast mates was in the barely-seen 2013 political thriller “The Company You Keep.” Nowadays, the handsomely rough-hewn star of “North Dallas Forty” looks more like a ruddy-faced Yeti while the still-fit Sundance Kid is paying the price for all that ultraviolet glare on the ski slopes. But these guys still know how to not just hold our attention but grab it, even if their current film needs them more than they need it.
Redford, who is also a producer, initially planned on reteaming with buddy Paul Newman a decade or so ago when he began to piece together this project based on Bill Bryson’s humor-filled 1998 account of his misadventures while hiking the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. A reunion with his sparring partner in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting,” halted by Newman’s death in 2008, would have been a must-see event. But the ever-volatile and gravel-voiced Nolte and the perennially cool and smooth-talking Redford manage just fine as a bracing pair of fellow travelers.
The feminist in me initially planned to bash “A Walk in the Woods,“ directed in typical middle-of-the-road fashion by Ken Kwapis (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) with an unfortunate insistence on telegraphing almost every laugh. On what grounds? That both leads are at least 30 years too old for their roles since Bryson and his estranged reprobate pal, Stephen Katz, are 44 in the book.