Friday, January 10, 2014

Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Film Review

Released worldwide this past Christmas was Ben Stiller’s latest film, one in which he produced, directed and starred in.  Based on James Thurber’s short story of the same name, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty attempts to blur the lines between daydreaming and actually living, and show how life is one great big journey.  The concept behind the film is pretty brilliant, but it could have been executed way better.  The initial setup grabs the audience, as they wait to see what will happen next, but it drops us off disappointed as things do start to pick up.  Adventure is out there waiting, but this film isn’t enough to inspire audiences to pursue it.

Chronic daydreamer Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is the negative assets manager at Life and Times magazine.  He escapes reality through constant fantasizing, and frequently zones out from the task at hand.  Action-packed and romantically heroic, Walter Mitty’s creative mind causes him to constantly lose touch with reality.  It’s quite funny, actually, how spacey he gets sometimes.  When the company announces they are going digital and will no longer print physical copies, Mitty is asked to develop the last cover’s picture.  This is no unusual task for Mitty, until he finds that the particular frame he needs goes missing.  His mission is to find the image’s photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) and recover the missing shot within two weeks of his deadline.

What’s a heroic mission without a little motivation?  The dream-come-true romance between Mitty and Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) is pretty run-of-the-mill.  He likes her, tries to go after her on Eharmony, and finds himself unimpressive.  It’s quite boring and drawn-out.  Its lack of passion isn’t even out of Mitty’s shyness.  He may just not care about Cheryl at all.  Mitty concerns himself with daydreaming, and not even his daydreams evoke much love (or even lust).  

True, once he stops daydreaming he starts living a life beyond dreams as far as adventuring goes, he is satisfied.  However, once he arrives in Iceland (which is shot beautifully), the story starts to lull.  The special effects sprinkled throughout the film are pretty impressive.  Mitty’s daydream sequences are pretty outrageous, including his superpower-induced chasing of Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) throughout New York City.  They may even be the saving grace. The first half hour really draws in the audience.  The concept for the film is an excellent one.  What audiences leave the theater with is meant to inspire.  Even the ending to the film is satisfying, and a pleasant surprise for those who sat through the two hours it took to get there.

Perhaps the detail of a two-week deadline screwed up the momentum of this film.  Provided Mitty had two or three days, the speed of events would have greatly increased, and he wouldn’t have exactly taken his time getting from Point A to Point B and back.  There would have been less time as far as what could been plausible for the story, but the level of action and plot twists would have increased, making Walter Mitty more watchable.  

The dumb show put on in between the beginning and end takes away from Stiller’s Walter Mitty.  Once more, Hollywood has gone out of their way to twist their source material to their fitting, as the three page piece in The New Yorker is nothing like the film.  Even though it was published 75 years ago, it doesn’t lend much to its 2013 adaptation.  The storyline gets confusing, and not even Stiller galavanting throughout the Arctic can save this film.  

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