Ben Stiller has not been on the upswing in a while. With his past several movies including “The Watch”, “Tower Heist”, and “Little Fockers”, it hasn’t been a stellar several years for Ben Stiller. We are seeing his “The Watch” co-star Vince Vaughn fall into the same rut of cookie cutter roles that do not have the same comedic qualities of the main roles that made them a star. Of course, not a single actor has a perfect resume of films under their name since it sometimes takes a project to lift them back up on their feet. With “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” it seems Ben Stiller received his calling.
“The Secret Life…” centers around the title character of Walter Mitty, a boring man leading a boring life. The opening scene introduces us to Walter as he sits in his very average looking apartment as he balances his checkbook with the use of a calculator. The opening act of the film offers us a glimpse into the mind of a daydreamer whose wild fantasies completely parallel the boring existence of the life that he lives. His e-Harmony profile is blank. His wardrobe is mundane. His 16 year career as a “negative assets manager” looks and sounds dull. Yet, here we are witnessing the inner thoughts of Walter as a womanizer, a fighter, and a hero among many other dreams. Walter only sits there imagining how events would play up if he took the risks or had the courage to fully live his life.
As the film progresses, Mitty begins a journey to find the missing “25th cell” sent to him by famed freelance photographer Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn) turning the events of Mittys’ life from day dreams into reality. With a supporting cast including Kristin Wiig, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine and Adam Scott, a simple, yet well delivered story brings an inspirational tale to Walter Mitty’s life. Although Adam Scott plays an arrogant boss, I felt that his performance didn’t fit with the remainder of the cast. While everybody was more grounded in this light hearted comedy, his character seemed a little over the top compared to everybody else.
Ben Stiller has amazing potential as a director. Even in a recent interview, Stiller has suggested that he may stray away from acting to start a full time role of staying behind the camera. As seen with the likes of Ben Affleck, I believe this could be a great move for the rejuvenation of his career. He fluidly fits behind the camera and offers a great film for the end of the year. As great as Stiller was able to piece together the story, the hidden strength and unsung hero of this film is going to be the cinematography of Stuart Dryburgh. The film is visually breathtaking with absolutely beautiful shots of scenery that add in depth to the journey that Mitty takes. Along with a soundtrack that works perfectly with the scenes they accompany (watch for the “Space Oddity” scene), Stiller delivers a very well rounded movie to enjoy.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” leaves the viewer with the attitude to “carpe diem”. With such alternative movies such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Grudge Match” coming out on Christmas, “…Walter Mitty” offers a perfect feel good movie for the end of the year. While the film may not have been perfect, it is definitely an enjoyable experience and will hopefully have a longer life on home video than it does during its theatrical run.
Three out of Four Stars