Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The (2013)
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott
Plot: A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, he takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Drama
Rating: PG for some crude comments, language and action violence.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“Life is about courage and going into the unknown.”
In 1947, there was a film adaptation of the short story of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. But that was a long time ago, and very few now know of its existence. So it feels like Ben Stiller's version is a fresh one, not a remake, but a contemporary interpretation of an old story.
Stiller directs and stars as the lead character who works as a negative asset employee for Life magazine that is downsizing and running its last print issue. Walter has a chronic (dis)ability – he frequently daydreams at work, not because he is bored, but rather that he has too fertile an imagination. He also has a crush on a new colleague, played by Kristen Wiig, and dreams of being with her. The main plot only starts when Walter becomes empowered by a missing negative sent by a famous photographer, and begins a journey of courage and self-discovery.
Cleverly marketed by Fox as a hip, cool and trendy movie with sumptuous visuals, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty appears to be a solid bet to earn plaudits. But in my opinion, it isn't as fun a film as it has been made out to be despite its feel-good premise; it is creative and beautiful, but underneath the gloss and splendour a film of surprisingly weak pacing emerges.
The narrative while well set up doesn't quite sustain for the long run. There are scenes that fade into dullness, especially when the dialogue becomes uninteresting. It also doesn't help that Stiller's performance is not particularly noteworthy, unless noteworthy connotes one-note. But still kudos to him for realizing a film that is unlike a typical Stiller comedy (it really is a drama in comedy’s clothing), yet possesses in itself a sense of unbridled optimism that many comedies fail to capture.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was shot in a number of scenic locations, including Iceland. If the story doesn't quite hit the right key, the cinematography does. Granted there are obvious nods to CGI use, but the effects are quite well-integrated and fit the tone of the picture. The use of music, most memorably Arcade Fire's ‘Wake Up’ and Of Monsters and Men's ‘Dirty Paws’ in two breathtaking sequences that see Stiller’s character running and skateboarding on a never-ending stretch of road, also gets some pleasant vibes going.
Audiences can take away a lesson or two – perseverance and hope are two strong themes, but the adventure could have been much more invigorating, even if my review appears to paint the movie as an already exciting one.
Verdict: This comedy-drama is creatively drawn out with vibrant colours and breathtaking scenery, but its poor pacing and lack of narrative thrust mean that it doesn’t quite give as fun an experience as you might think.
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