Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2013
Directed by
Ben Stiller
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

The Secret LIfe Of Walter Mitty

Synopsis: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) works in the photographic department of Life magazine. He is a shy retiring fellow, given to daydreams in which he casts himself as a hero. From afar he fancies co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), and only gets the courage to speak to her when a vital negative needed for a front cover goes missing. Meantime corporate raiders take over the magazine, threatening to sack Mitty if he doesn’t come up with the neg. In a fit of uncharacteristic bravado, Walter heads off in search of Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), the photographer who took the vital pic.

From its trailer it looks like yet another mainstream Hollywood popcorn movie (of which it certainly has elements) but there is more to be had here.  In anticipation I reacquainted myself with the original 1947 version of Walter Mitty, played by Danny Kaye and based upon the same short story by James Thurber. Just as that film is symptomatic of its era, Stiller’s version successfully brings the character of Mitty into the modern age, with similar basic themes, but side-serves of internet dating, CGI-enhanced derring-do and a whimsically poignant undercurrent to the relationship between the two main characters.

Much of the success comes from the off-beat pairing of Wiig and Stiller. Wiig, star of Bridesmaids, is engaging in a slightly quirky fashion and when Walter imagines her as she sings David Bowie’s iconic "Space Oddity", it is an unexpectedly delightful moment in the film. Stiller, juggling his directorial hat with acting, achieves a nice balance to his character, such that, whilst we see Walter in some ways as a bit of a loser, we also recognize his strong points, particularly in his commitment to the job he has held for so many years. Although playing his now- familiar awkward, accident-prone character (notably the risk assessor in 2004's  Along Came Polly), Stiller  wants to be taken more seriously than in most of his films – it is the incidents that are amusing, and the context in which they occur.

Patton Oswalt is great fun as Todd, whilst Adam Scott, playing the bearded, ruthless corporate creep sent to restructure Walter’s workplace, also impresses.  Extra kudos comes in the form of the delightful Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mum, a much more understanding parent than Walter’s mother in the original film. Finally, the few minutes in which Sean Penn appears on screen, are, as is usually the case with Penn, worth waiting for.

Don’t be deterred by the Hollywood contrivances. Stiller brings to his entertaining story and its characters an optimism and enthusiasm for life that is worth engaging with.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst