The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life Of Walter MittyWalter Mitty (Ben Stiller) spends a lot of time in his own head, where he regularly daydreams about his oblivious co-worker, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). The rest of his time is spent at Life magazine, where he works in the image archive with assistant Hernando (Adrian Martinez). With Life preparing to move online, the race is on to put together a fitting final edition. Unfortunately, Mitty seems to have misplaced the cover picture selected by esteemed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Now, with the help of Cheryl, and coached over the phone by a customer service representative at their shared dating website, Mitty must set off to find the photo. And have a look for himself while he’s at it.

The second film to be based on James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name after Norman Z. McLeod’s 1947 adaptation starring Danny Kaye, Stiller’s The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty bares — apart from the basic premise — little resemblance to either previous incarnation. The nature of the fantasies themselves have changed over time, both to better reflect the changing historical contexts and the individual demands of the evolving plot, but the most obvious shift has been in the focus of the narrative itself. The episodes themselves — with one notable exception — are of little consequence, the film instead proving more interested in Walter’s reality.

This means more time spent in Mitty’s workplace, which in this case means the magazine’s offices. Rather than creating their own title, the filmmakers have instead enrolled their hero at Life; as Walter takes the company motto as his own personal mantra, passes along a corridor lined with framed cover images and argues passionately for the brand’s enduring values, it all has the unfortunate air of propaganda. With Life‘s sales pitch ringing hollowly in your ears thanks to some of the most gratuitous product placement of the year (see also: eHarmony), it’s difficult to divorce the movie from its cod message, and whenever the script tries to be inspiring or uplifting it just comes across as cynical and insincere.

It’s a shame, really, because there are occasions where the narrative just about holds together. The dream sequences are nicely done — particularly the hallucination that sees Stiller, in full arctic explorer regalia, stepping out of a frosty photo — and add an extra dimension to an adaptation that might otherwise have felt like a Life-sponsored sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. Unlike Stiller’s other directorial efforts, Walter Mitty isn’t too much of an acquired taste, and there are a few laughs to be had as the character jaunts around the world. Thanks to cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh it is also stunning to look at, the scenes set in Greenland and Iceland proving almost attractive enough to distract you from the appalling plot holes. Just how did Walter pay for that Papa John’s?

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty will hold your attention, and on occasion it may well even entertain. Stiller has assembled a talented cast, hired a capable crew and blended some decent gags with impressive special effects. Unfortunately, a plot ridden with holes and a superficial message that leaves a bad taste in the mouth somewhat diminish the overall experience.

2-stars (1)

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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