Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Year: 2013
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Sean Penn

Plot: Walter Mitty, the negative asset manager for Life magazine, is missing the negative for a picture that will be used for the magazine's final issue cover. In an effort to locate the photographer who took the picture, Walter embarks on an adventure around the world and discovers a thing or two about living his dreams.

Review: If you're the kind of person who's had that dream about doing something, but never got around to doing it, then this film is something you can definitely relate to. Let's face it, we're all dreamers to a certain degree, no matter how much of a realist some of us are. I dare say that there's a bit of Walter Mitty in each of us.

Ben Stiller lets go of his usual brand of comedy to bring us a very heartwarming tale that's based on an old short story by James Thurber. He plays the titular character, who leads a mostly uneventful life, the type of guy who would only dream of taking risks. Heck, sending a wink to a girl he likes on a dating site took him some effort. But on the flipside, Walter is good at what he does, which is managing picture negatives for Life magazine, which is downsizing in its move to go online entirely. The magazine's star photographer, Sean O'Connell, was supposed to leave Walter a negative to be used for the magazine's final cover, but he can't find it. So Walter has to do what he usually wouldn't do: embark on a global adventure to find Sean and get the negative.

What makes Walter's quest entertaining is the stuff that happens in between, such as his fantasies (which are hilarious by the way), his phone conversations with Todd, a guy who is trying to build Walter's dating profile, and his interactions with Cheryl, a co-worker that he has a crush on. All this makes Walter's daily life not only fascinating, but also something most of us would understand totally and maybe even envy, especially once his traveling begins.

Stiller, who also directs, puts in an honest performance as Walter. Now, let's be clear, he isn't that much different from the guys he usually plays in his previous films, except he considerably tones down the clumsy loser aspect of himself here. As Walter, he is someone I can truly relate to, comprehend and root for throughout the film. Kristen Wiig shares good chemistry with him as Cheryl, and I'm glad this isn't a film where she gets the chance to be funny, this ought to be Stiller's film anyway. Adam Scott does well as Ted, the jerk of a new boss at the magazine, who seems to have an intentionally paste-on beard meant to make him look ridiculous. Sean Penn has a short appearance as Sean O'Connell, but makes every second of it count. He really looked like a photographer, scruffy appearance and all. Shirley MacLaine is also great as Walter's mum, playing the kind of parent we all wished we had. Patton Oswalt, despite only showing up in the final third of the film, is pretty good in his phone conversations with Walter as Todd.

The film could use a bit of editing here and there as it feels too long at times, but it's a minor complaint. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, even the technical aspects were spot on, from music to cinematography (I'm still wondering if Stiller filmed on location in Greenland and Iceland). 

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is the feel good film of the year. If it doesn't do that for you, it'll at least make you want to travel more. Recommended. (4/5)

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