The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
The quiet and careful life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is thrown into upheaval when Life Magazine, where he has worked for 16 years, gets acquired by a new company. As the magazine transitions from print to online, Walter and his co-workers are tasked with creating the final newsstand edition. While the clock ticks down on his career at the magazine, Walter is looks for any way to connect with an attractive co-worker, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), but he can’t work up the nerve to ask her out, so he creates a fantasy world he retreats to, where he is the man of her dreams.
The photo negative that acclaimed and enigmatic photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) has earmarked for the last ever cover of Life Magazine comes up missing, so Walter reluctantly embarks on a real-life globetrotting adventure to track down O’Connell and retrieve the photo. Urged on by Cheryl, Walter takes a leap into the unknown and discovers that he is more than the timid and afraid man that he has been.
This will sound more negative than I intend it to, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a much smaller movie than I expected. The ad for the film focuses on Walter’s dream sequences and the travel scenes, when the meat of the movie is a quieter and more intimate story of a man rediscovering himself after years of hiding behind his fears and responsibilities. I often find Ben Stiller to be a more skilled actor than he is given credit for, and when his performance is paired with the visual work he does as the director of this movie, it should be lauded. There are also some very good smaller parts featuring Patton Oswalt and Adrian Martinezthat help flesh out the story.
The only drawback is that, since the source material is a short story, the movie is a little insubstantial. More could be made of the relationship that Walter has with his mother (Shirley MacLaine) and his sister (Kathryn Hahn), because that helps inform us as to who he really is, but we only get glimpses of that so that the movie can rush us forward to it’s more “cinematic” elements. The shots of the Icelandic countryside and the mountains around Afghanistan are beautiful, but without Walter’s personal journey and transformation there is no movie, and we needed to get to know him a little better to become fully invested. B