Author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is feeling a bit stuck in place. He loves his family and his wife (Emma Thompson in a thankless role with which she still does a terrific job) but lately, he’s starting to become impatient with his usual routine, which increasingly seems to include attending funerals of friends and acquaintances. As a smarmy talk show host points out in the opening scene, Robert has never written a travel book set in the United States. Hence the idea for hiking the Appalachian Trail is born, even though Emma has swung into action and is busy downloading articles on poisonous snakes, sumac and sundry.
Robert does admit that he would be better off with a partner and so makes a number of calls, all of which lead nowhere. However, a former travel buddy (Nick Nolte) hears through the grapevine about Robert’s trek and volunteers. Since he’s the only taker, Robert and Nick set off with Emma’s dire warnings ringing in their ears. And then they, well, hike, despite occasional inclement weather, bears foraging at the campsite at night, young whippersnappers cheerfully offering unasked for assistance, a tumble or two, encounters with the opposite sex, and finally, some heart-to-heart revelations about such things as aging, marriage and recovery from alcoholism.
The scenery which features many jaw dropping vistas on mountainous peaks easily deserves its own credit. (The soundtrack, largely by Lord Huron, also strikes the perfect note.) I won’t give away whether or not they succeed in their quest, but it’s an amusing and engaging journey, which my audience (middle-aged and up) enjoyed and chuckled in all the right places. Though there’s not a great deal of drama, there is definite danger in places. “Monumentally,” one character notes after his partner observes dryly that they are screwed.