2015 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

In an unlikely casting coup, Robert Redford plays travel writer Bill Bryson who, having never explored much of his homeland, decides to walk America's 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. He's joined by his wheezy old travel-mate Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte) but while their minds are set, their bodies are lagging some way behind... The grouchy chemistry between the old grizzlies makes this an agreeably light-hearted ramble, based on Bryson's 1998 book.

Director

  • Ken Kwapis

Cast

  • Robert Redford

  • Nick Nolte

  • Emma Thompson

  • Mary Steenburgen

  • Nick Offerman

  • Kristen Schaal

Review

Although the adaptation of a Bill Bryson travelogue was never going to set the casting grapevine abuzz, there were a few more obvious candidates to play the cuddly globetrotter than Robert Redford. Like Paul Giamatti. Or Danny DeVito. Or Bill Oddie.

Still, despite the casting incongruity, Redford's Bryson is exactly the sort of wry, dry stooge required to play opposite the battered old hot-air balloon that is Nick Nolte's Katz.

Having travelled Europe together in their carefree youth, the pair are reunited when Bryson gets a late attack of wanderlust whilst living in semi-retirement in leafy Georgia.

Despite the relatively little of his homeland and with the world's longest footpath - the mighty Appalachian Trail - running past his home, he resolves to walk it.

But wife Cathy (a cast-padding Emma Thompson) refuses to let him do it alone. With no other takers, the field is open for Katz, a man who never turned down an adventure - or a drink - in his life.

A couple of embarrassing anecdotes later and the pair are on the trail, huffing and puffing their way through a series of carry-ons involving annoying fellow hikers, ladies with big bloomers, and - who'd have guessed it? - hungry bears.

Indeed, from the traditional slips and trips to the inevitable loss of trousers, it's mostly as predictable as what bears do in the woods.

It's a bit of a surprise when the happily married Bryson starts mooning over motel owner Mary Steenburgen, but that little episode - and thus Steenburgen's involvement - turns out to be entirely pointless.

Chugging along like Planes, Trains And Automobiles with a drop in comic horsepower, it's an unremarkable but perfectly serviceable odd-couple caper that'll pass the time when it's a bit grim outside.

Get past Nolte's bare backside and the views are lovely too.

Elliott Noble