REVIEW: The pros and cons of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

Ben Stiller is so charismatic and comedic, it was a wonder to see him play flat and boring as the title character in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Walter is a daydreamer to his own detriment, imagining over-the-top retorts to his new “boss” (Adam Scott) and romantic entanglements with his  co-worker (Kristen Wiig). Before the film sets off, I was worried his daydreaming would get old fast, as you want a main character who is present, but this set-up made the transition from inaction to action that much more wondrous.

Here are the pros and cons of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Walter, man, PAY ATTENTION

 

  • PRO: The players. Ben Stiller delivers an intricate performance of a bump on a log, and watching him shed his hard exterior is what makes this movie. I LOVED seeing Kristen Wiig play subtle and encouraging. She’s so talented and multifaceted, I’m jazzed to see what she brings us next. Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine and Kathryn Hahn (all lead actors) played supporting characters to a tee.
  • CON: Patton Oswalt has a cameo as a strange eHarmony customer service rep who intermittently calls Walter after fulfilling his duties. It was distracting (stalker?) and a bit forced all for one chance meeting later. I imagine this character was a way to further represent Walter’s metamorphosis, but it was blatantly unrealistic, unnecessary and kind of a waste of Oswalt.
  • PRO: OMG, the landscapes. This is THE PERFECT film to watch while most of us are cast into wintry darkness in the Midwest. So lush and beautiful are Walter’s travels that even though I didn’t want to be hiking the Himalayas or in a freezing ocean in Greenland, I loved being transported there while sitting safely in the movie theater.
  • CON: There’s no real concept of time. When Walter returns to the U.S., he’s tan and his wardrobe has changed. You think he’s been backpacking foreign countries for a month, but it’s only been about a week. That makes his physical transformation seem less valid, though that’s a minor criticism for what this film represents: taking chances and living life.

    STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX: Possibly the first time we see Walter’s pearly whites


    OTHER NOTABLES: 

  • Sean Penn’s character, the elusive photographer who takes an unlikely interest in the photo tech at LIFE Magazine, seemed extremely unlikely. The payoff, in one devastatingly beautiful moment, makes this minor critique a bit moot.
  • SUBLIME use of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and director Ben Stiller(!) was sure to immerse audiences in the various countries on screen, including locals and glancing at the core of different cultures and the magic that follows when we escape the confines of ourselves.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is worth 8 bucks at the theater as it makes for a more affecting journey. Watch it.

Grade: B+ 

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: The pros and cons of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

  1. Perhaps a comparison with the original with Danny Kaye would not have been amiss. You do know there was an original, right?

  2. You forgot to mention the soundtrack (beyond Space Oddity), which, in my opinion, was the true ‘star’ of a fairly lightweight, but nevertheless good-feeling, movie. Also, I liked the way Stiller incorporated the opening credits and different, inspirational messages into the passing landscape, or buildings, or other objects. Unobtrusive and fun.

    • You’re right about the rest of the soundtrack. I have a soft spot for Bowie, so it made that scene, mixed with his ascent in the helicopter, more affecting for me.

      And I was really impressed with Stiller (as the director) mixing messages into the scenery! I think this was the first movie I’ve seen of his where he really cranked up the effects.

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