Sometimes a movie, such as “Avatar”, can rely too heavily on its special effects, sacrificing development of its plot and character development. But other times a movie successfully blends impressive effects with a solid plot. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which is directed by and stars Ben Stiller, is such a film.
Based on the famous short story, “Walter Mitty” follows a day-dreamer (Stiller) who must go on worldwide quest to locate a lost photograph that will go on the cover of the final edition of LIFE magazine. Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn also star.
Little background on this movie, it has languished in development hell for years. When plans first arose for the film back in 1994, Jim Carrey was attached to star, with Ron Howard to direct. Since then, it has gone through names such as Owen Wilson, Mike Myers and Sacha Baron Cohen in the lead role, and Gore Verbinski, Mark Walters and Steven Spielberg as director. Finally Stiller signed on to be the lead, and eventually became the director as well.
What makes this film was enjoyable as it is is the scenery. There were some scenes that are gorgeous, such as when Walter is hiking along the Himalayan Mountains. Stiller (as the director) uses a lot of wide shots and you really feel immersed into the film, and realize how small we really are compared to everything else on this planet.
Some of the performances are very solid as well. Stiller is always reliable for a few chuckles, and makes Walter a calm, relatable person. Kristen Wiig plays Walter’s love interest and it was nice to see her play an actual person, not an over-the-top character like she does in most of her films (not that she ever does a bad job, but things can get stale). Sean Penn is entertaining in his few minutes of scene time.
Some other characters, however, hold the film back. Adam Scott plays Walter’s new boss and he’s just a cartoon villain. He’s too mean and too snarky to take seriously. But Scott is nowhere near as strange as Walter’s sister, played by Kathryn Hahn. She is just unlike any human being on this earth. She says things that no one would ever say, and she talks to everyone as if they’re four years old.
The script is hit-or-miss. Sometimes the dialogue is witty and some scenes are very clever. But other times jokes seem forced or an attempt at a dramatic moment comes off as awkward.
Overall “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a fun, albeit flawed movie. Like I said, visually it is a very impressive film, and oth Stiller’s direction and performance are steady. The film’s biggest problem is the uneven script, but that doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable. It has messages about life and how we should go beyond our comfort zones every now and again, and leans on its exciting imagery to push that message across.
Critics Rating: 7/10