Film Review “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) movie posterStarring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, and Shirley MacLaine
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Rated: PG
Running Time: 114 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Walter Mitty (Stiller) has lived a dry life. His dating profile is barren. Not because he’s shy, but because he draws a blank when asked if he’s ever gone anywhere or done anything exciting. Ironically he is a long time photo department employee for the magazine “Life”. He’s lived a longer and more fulfilling life in his head. As his sister says, he zones out and begins to image a complex fantasy sprawl out in front while blocking out the real world. He sees himself as a true hero, constantly in the throes of battle or immersing himself in a wild adventure. Instead he’s spent years developing the photos of world traveler Sean O’Connel (Sean Penn) in the basement of the “Life” building.

Today he learns that “Life” has been acquired and will become an all online magazine. The company has brought in a new smug boss, Ted (Adam Scott). He’s a hot shot who’s clueless about how the company is run. Ted says the magazine’s final publication will feature an image that Sean has deemed as the quintessence of life. What is that image? Don’t know. Mitty has lost the negative and is quietly scrambling to find it. The beginning may not sound exciting, but the tapestry that is Walter’s imagination, is a saving grace. He saves animals from exploding buildings and in a light hearted moment, skews Benjamin Button.

His love interest in the movie, Cheryl (Wiig), seems to be the driving factor behind Walter’s sudden change of direction. Instead of accepting defeat, he pushes himself to globe trot in order to find Sean and ask what his final negative was. The film does begin to lose a major component of storytelling when Walter’s vivid imagination begins to phase out as he begins to encounter his own fanciful situations. How many people can say they’ve fought a shark in the water or sped away from a volcanic cloud of ash? As neat as though actual adventures are, I’d much rather watch Walter surf on gravel and duel Ted over a Stretch Armstrong.

Give ample credit to Ben Stiller for painting such a beautiful world for Walter, real and fake. Behind the camera, Stiller is smart enough to let the beautiful countryside of Iceland speak for itself in multiple scenes, but fails to give Walter a big enough playground even in the realm of his own visions. In front of the camera, Stiller puts his usual movie goofyness aside and plays the humble Walter well. Kristen Wiig is equally charming in her role as a single mom willing to let Walter into her life. One of my favorite parts of this movie is the fantastic indie soundtrack. The music meshes well when used as a simple bed for the scene to nestle on or when it overtakes the sound of everything.

Walter’s a likable guy and he’s very relatable since we’ve all had our fair share of daydreams. Who doesn’t wanna show up their boss in front of their co-workers? It’s easy to become disinterested and tired of the story as it stumbles beneath it’s frantic feet, but if your hearts in the right place, you’ll have a smile on your face as you exit the theater.


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