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Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt
Plot: Walter Mitty (Stiller) would rather daydream than take any risk with his life, but when his job is threatened at Life magazine, he undertakes a massive adventure to change that.

Odds are, if you are going to see Walter Mitty at the cinema, it will either be the last film of 2013 you will see, or the first film of 2014. I have no idea if this was planned or not by the producers, but this is the perfect time to watch it. Why? Because this is a film about New Year resolutions, making you want to better your life and begin to take some chances.

Walter Mitty is a quiet man. Ben Stiller both directs and portrays the character, giving him the air of a reserved person, who likes to just get on quietly by himself, working as a negative assets manager for Life magazine. This is the kind of person, who we could very easily spend two hours screaming at a screen at, but somehow Walter Mitty seems really likeable. It helps that Ben Stiller is one of the first people to get awkward right. Most movies depict awkward people all wrong. In chick flicks, the awkward girl is totally normal (and usually a stunningly, beautiful model), who just happens to be slightly clumsy. Rachel McAdams character arc in every movie is tripping up once and then going back to being perfectly and totally not awkward. Other awkward movie characters often just remain quiet, until the movie asks them to be awesome near the end. Real awkward people get asked the time from a hot girl and answer with “Thank you.” (Shut up – it happened once!) Walter Mitty finally captures that sense of pure awkwardness. There is a line with an elevator and the girl of his dreams that had me in stitches.

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The only other review of this I have read right now is one from jjames36 and his main complaint for this film is a weak script. I have been struggling to decide if I agree or not, because his argument is fairly compelling. I think it depends on your definition of script. I have spilt it into two categories: dialogue and story. When it comes to dialogue, I think the Secret Life of Walter Mitty excels. It has the perfect line for every conversation and almost every interaction between characters is believable, especially between Stiller and Wiig. However, I do agree with jjames36 that the story sometimes gets a little nonsensical. The scene with the sharks, while fun, is a little too bizarre. The ending wraps itself up a little too well. I personally think the film suffers because the mid-way section is so much better than the end. I don’t want to say the film goes downhill or runs out of steam, because it is still really enjoyable, but I think the moment where Mitty returns to America from his first adventure, the film lowers the bar slightly. It is still good content, but not as good as the great scenes that you were watching just before.

Don’t go into this film expecting a laugh-out-loud comedy. Anchorman 2 is probably a safer bet for that. Walter Mitty is, probably on paper, a comedy, but it feels much more than that. The laughs are more refined and subtle. There is very little slapstick (outside of the daydreaming sequences that is), instead working for the jokes. The laughs come from the right expression and the right line coming together at the right time. The one reason I nearly skipped this film was Ben Stiller. I find him mildly funny, but not enough to truly invest much time and money into. I have totally changed my mind on him as a director. He has matured here, obvious from both his performance and his direction. Some of the direction is really impressive, the actor showing off several little tricks, which will amaze the audience.

The best thing about the Secret Life of Walter Mitty is just the feel good value of the whole film. I have watched a few films that are fairly awful, but save themselves because of the uplifting sensation in your chest, as the film closes. Walter Mitty is a good film to start with and the greatness you feel, during the film just adds to that. It is about a man seizing control of his life and improving himself as a person. The soundtrack is also terrific. The best scene in the film is easily the moment where Walter Mitty takes a huge risk, while he imagines the love of his life serenading him with ‘Ground Control to Major Tom’. It was a fantastic blend of action and music, which really suggests that Ben Stiller is a director to look out for in the future.

Final Verdict: Forgive the more obvious flaws and you will really enjoy this epic tale about one man trying to better himself. Ben Stiller’s best work yet.

Four Stars

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4 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: The Review

  1. Thanks for the shout out!

    And I agree with your distinction, actually. There’s nothing wrong with the dialogue, but the plot. The plot could have been better.

    In reflection, and having talked to some people about this one, I think it was going for the same surreal whimsy that Forrest Gump captures, but it fails, probably because the story is too straight forward, too linear and so contradicts surreal development.

  2. Nice review Luke. It was a fine movie. If anything, it just goes to show me that there’s more to Stiller than I originally imagined. From a dramatic-standpoint that is.

  3. Another good review I can agree with, Stiller is blossoming as a director. Big fan of Tropic Thunder and Walter Mitty satisfied as I hoped it would. Not perfect but I’ll take it for what it is. I particularly agree with one of your closing lines about the best scene being where he’s committing to his journey and Cheryl is “there” playing that song on guitar. That was wonderful.

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