THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Directed by Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine
Loosely based on the short story by James Thurber, Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is full of potential but never quite finds its own heart. Beautiful cinematography, a quiet and stellar supporting cast, and a hipster's dream soundtrack aren't quite enough to save Stiller's passion project.
Set amidst the corporate downsizing America we've all come to know, Walter Mitty works in the photography department of the shifting LIFE magazine offices. Tongue-in-cheek references to the fact that Mitty doesn't have a life are supported by elaborate daydreaming sequences early on in the film. Most revolve around his crush Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), the beautiful single mom who works in a separate department of the same office. After stalking her on eHarmony, he fumbles several in-person meetings at work to only end up getting the chance to somewhat go on an adventure with her to find a lost photo negative. The picture is intended as the final cover of LIFE and, once Mitty realizes it's missing, the photo's photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) must be tracked down. On a whim, and thanks to Cheryl's suggestion, Mitty travels to Greenland, Iceland, and finally the Himalayas, to track O'Connell down.
The film is all over the place. It seems as if Stiller was trying to make a indie-infused adventure for the modern era. It's very stylized. From the clever opening credits sequence to the use of effects throughout, Walter Mitty has a lot of pizzaz and a big absence of heart. The story and music suggest a deeper meaning that never quite translates. Stiller is a comedic actor who has perfected the jump to quirky dramas in the past, but misses the mark here. Unnecessary "funny" scenes and bits ruin any glimpse of heart that may be infused throughout. The best moments come from Wiig and Shirley MacLaine, who plays Mitty's endearing mother.
There are things to like about the film. It's not a 100% waste. But what should have been an enchanting ride through a daydreamer's eyes ends up a collection of beautiful images, perfectly designed production design (I like the greys and blues), and fantastic music. It's the talking part that ruins everything. Where Terrence Malick can get by with an openness effect, Stiller fails.
Runtime: 114 minutes