Ben Stiller directs and stars in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the perfect feel-good movie of the Holiday season. Walter Mitty is Stiller attempting to take a more serious crack at directing, blending big heart with his usual brand of comedy. The result is something that’s contagiously inspiring and something that’s bursting with love, life and lots of positive energy. Walter Mitty isn’t quite an Oscar-level feat, but it’s mostly harmless and operates on a simple level of evoking smiles and good feelings, while rarely peeling back at the surface.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a middle-aged single man that spends a lot of time day-dreaming. His life has reached a point where finding meaning is hard and instead of discovering new things he simply wastes away at his job working in the negative film department of Life Magazine. His job is one that’s fading away as the magazine shifts from film to digital and print to online.
He needs to wake up.
His wake up call comes in various forms. First, there’s a co-worker (Kristen Wiig) that he finds attractive and would like to get to know, plus there’s a missing cover photo that he’s in charge of. So, now he must venture into the unknown to find the photo and make history with the final cover for Life Magazine, while also discovering his own courage and his own willingness to live life to the fullest.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is something that will move you and something that will make you want to get up out of your seat. It’s the perfect kind of story that will motivate you and dare you to start living your dreams and it’s directed with a visual sense of beauty and enough light comedy and drama to grab a hold of you, but never really suck you in.
I’m, not saying that Walter Mitty didn’t impact me, because it did. The film operates mostly on feel-good surface-level material, but that sort of thing works for me and I have no problem admitting that its flabby plot structure made a very small dent on the film’s overall impact for myself.
But your mileage may vary.
Walter Mitty contains lots of on-the-nose advertising for dozens of companies and while I thought that it helped remind Mitty of home or help remind the audiences of a familiar comfort, some will attack the film for its simple intentions of promoting and promoting, like a Visa card commercial on TV.
I think that Stiller’s approach to the short story is great and breathes lots of life into something that could have anchored down with too much drama or leveled out with lots of safe and boring comedy. Walter Mitty lands somewhere in the middle, never really crossing over into either territory.
This works just fine, because Ben Stiller is a more than capable leading man and an even better director. He’s really matured behind the lens from a visual sense, capturing such beauty and empowering the viewers to stretch their imagination just a little further into the unknown. Walter Mitty is a globe-trotting adventure that rarely slows down or lets up and that’s exactly why it gets by on its good graces, even when the film’s own story stops making sense and starts embracing the day-dreaming as real-life living.
Touching up on the story too much would be to spoil the fun and to reveal some of the film’s many mysteries, so I’ll just leave it at that. Walter Mitty isn’t a perfect film by any means, but it works well within its own boundaries and intentions and Ben Stiller should be proud of his end product, just as long as he knows that he hasn’t made some sort of masterpiece.
Because the film is not a masterpiece and instead just a very well done piece of inspiration. It looks great and makes you feel even better, but the more you dissect it, the more you’ll come up with problems.
There’s a charming trait to the film that sweeps you up off your feet and keeps you floating throughout the entire running time and it’s that exact feeling that makes The Secret Life of Walter Mitty something truly special and engaging. It will move you and motivate you and hopefully make you want to do bigger and better things with your life. A film that does those things, surface-level or not, should be appreciated and commended for its ability to evoke such emotions, but it should also be objectively judged for its problems, which are present, but not overly apparent.
Are you okay with a relaxed plot structure that sort of takes the backseat somewhere after the first act? Are you looking for something that will move you deeply or just make you feel good around the Holiday season when you’re out and about with the family? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty might dazzle and impress on the first go, but I doubt it’ll hold up as an all-timer or something that truly shifts your foundation. It’s a great feel-good Holiday film that will encourage and inspire, but it does so in a manner that’s quick and painless, but not as rewarding as something that spends much more time developing a story with fully realized characters.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – 8/10