Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Release date: December 25, 2013
Running time: 114 minutes
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott
Who to see it with: Stiller fans who prefer his rare serious roles


Walter Mitty the second loose film adaptation of the 1939 short story of the same name, and Ben Stiller's latest try at directing a movie starring himself. (No writing this time, unlike Zoolander and Tropic Thunder.) He plays the title character, a mild-mannered Life Magazine employee who often mentally drifts into elaborate daydream worlds where he is free to act out his wild fantasies. Walter is an overly passive guys who keeps his thoughts to himself while wishing he could be someone else. He's disrespected by his new condescending superior Ted (Scott) who comes to Life to manage its closing, but seeing his friendly new coworker Cheryl (Wiig) keeps his spirits up.

Mitty does not make a good first impression. The tone of Walter's office and home life seems to be darkly comedic, but it mostly feels bleak and annoying. Ted's asinine behavior made many of the early office scenes hard to enjoy and the way over-the-top daydreams felt like a bad attempt to add ill-fitting humor to a dramedy. Fortunately, a mission to find a photo for his job removes Walter from his boring life and takes him on a European adventure that straddles the line of reality and fantasy. The trip is pretty unbelievable, but at least there's plenty of nice scenery and the daydreams become much less prevalent. Walter's unreal trip isn't anything special but is much more involving than seeing him berated by his too annoying boss or behave awkwardly around underdeveloped Cheryl. I like the story's message and the Walter's development, and maybe half of the movie is a drag to make the more fantastic aspects more effective, but the sort of odd fantasy portion does not make up for the often boring realistic scenes. 


I'm going to have to agree and disagree with what Lee said. He's right on the money that the day dreams are over-the-top and that Mitty's boss is plain annoying. But, I did like this movie a lot. It has pacing issues (the movie starts slowly, speeds up, then randomly slows down again) and the characters are not fully developed, but I overall liked the movie. It has a story that most people who have worked in a big office environment can relate to and I think Stiller was the perfect person for the leading role. And the cinematography is beautiful with wonderful scenery of some slightly exotic locales. 


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