River Wild Is An Unnecessary Reimagining

Adam Brody, Leighton Meester, and Taran Killam in River Wild. Courtesy of Universal.

River Wild is an unnecessary reimagining of the 1994 thriller, The River Wild, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and David Strathairn.

I have to admit that the idea of a new film did pique my curiosity. At the end of the day, it doesn’t do anything better that the first film already did. No offense to Adam Brody, Leighton Meeston, or Taran Killam but they are not Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and David Strathairn. It’s the star power of the original film that helps draw viewers in combined with the thrills of watching them rafting with the suspense playing out. That and award-worthy performances! The fact of the matter is that The River Wild is impressive for doing what it does with the available technology for filmmakers and visual effects in 1994. This film just doesn’t have the same magic. The fact that one knows what happens in the original film also means that there needs to be some really good thrills to keep one’s attention.

They still keep the focus on a family to an extent. Rather than a family of three, we have a pair of siblings. Instead of picking up two random tourists who later cause tension, it’s a childhood friend. Gray (Taran Killam) and Joey (Leighton Meester) are estranged siblings and invite their friend, Trevor (Adam Brody), on a whitewater rafting trip. Trevor has a troubled past, which does not help matters. Two other tourists join them for the whitewater adventure. Again, they more or less keep to the original’s formula to lesser success. The key difference, of course, is the tension coming from a friend. In the original, the source of the tension came from elsewhere. Unlike the original, filmmakers shot overseas.

The film is arriving directly on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD shows that it is not a good film. It’s certainly no different than the direct-to-video films of the olden days. In short, avoiding theaters and going direct-to-video is probably not a good sign. That being said, it’s also hitting Netflix in the US. We’ll see if the algorithm leads audiences to push it into the top ten. Adam Brody, Leighton Meeston, or Taran Killam are not able to promote the film on social media or do press because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. When one factors this into the equation, it means the studio is really depending on whatever press it can get. And again, I’m sorry to say it but because I enjoy the original but this film is not good. Thankfully, it only runs an hour and a half.

SCREENWRITERS: Ben Ketai and Mike Nguyen Le
CAST: Leighton Meeston, Taran Killam, Olivia Swann, Eve Connolly, and Adam Brody

Universal 1440 Entertainment releases River Wild on Blu-ray on August 1, 2023. Grade: 2/5

Please subscribe to Dugout Dirt and Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.