The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a charming tale directed by and starring Ben Stiller. Exploring his unorthodox film repertoire, Stiller struggles to disguise his comedic capabilities and fails to reach the full potential of this emotionally engaging character. Nevertheless, we see an interesting story portrayed in a heartening fashion.
Walter Mitty is a man guilty of falling into lapses of daydreams in which he paints a portrait of himself as a heroic figure that he otherwise wishes to be. This affects him socially, drifting off mid conversation. Walter works at LIFE magazine – irony being he has no life. When asked by a consultant at eHarmony why his “been there, done that” section is blank, Walter simply replies, “because I haven’t been anywhere or done anything.”
But when a chain of events at work occurs, Walter’s life takes a dramatic step forward. A new firm has bought LIFE magazine and are set to release its final printed issue, causing a huge shake up at the corporation. Walter is given the task to find a specific photo for the final cover by his new boss (Adam Scott), who he immediately gets off on the wrong foot with. After misplacing the photo, Walter goes in search of previous photographer Shaun O’Connell (Sean Penn) in order to find the missing photograph. This provides to be more difficult than first anticipated for Walter and in turn takes him around the world, with an encouraging push from the girl literally of his dreams (Kristen Wiig).
Some stunning shots and sequences depict Walter’s travels and at stages he struggles to believe the transformation from fantasy to real life given the sudden introduction of excitement in his life. The film in general is well shot and offers a sweet, sensitive aspect, but if there is one disappointment, it would be Stiller’s less than spectacular performance. Having starred in similarly awkward roles such as Greenberg, Stiller is accomplished enough to produce the goods with this type of character. However, he fails to truly nail down the character, trying too hard with the comedic element when he should be tugging on our heartstrings.
Walter Mitty is, nevertheless, a heart-warming story and much of its underbelly and clever tones makes for pleasant viewing. Unfortunately it fails to engage fully on an emotional scale and therefore loses some credibility especially given the potential of such an interesting character.