Directed By: Ben Stiller
Written By: Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly and more
Runtime: 1 Hour, 54 Minutes
Release Date: December 25th, 2013
Link to IMDb
Let me ask you this: do you live in the moment? Do you spend your days at the moment, always alert and ready to go? Or do you let your mind wander? Do you live in your daydreams to escape the monotony of day-to-day life? If so, would you do anything to make your daydreams a reality?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a movie with a split personality. Half the time, it’s an incredibly creative film with a distinct and memorable visual style, a compelling story with great characters and fantastic performances. The other half, the visuals consist of boring, flat shots and aged visuals effects, jokes of wildly varying quality and pacing that snaps back-and-forth from too slow, too fast and just right.
So, the question is: which end of the spectrum does it ultimately fall on? Is it an enjoyable flick worth being remembered, despite its shortcomings? Or is it a film best left forgotten?
Story: Chasing a Moment
This movie gets off to a strong start, quickly hooking the audience in on the characters and plot. Then it sags for about twenty minutes, meandering before the actual adventure gets going. But once it gets going, the movie takes a huge spike upwards in quality!
Walter Mitty is a pretty normal guy working at the soon-to-be shut down Life Magazine. He spends his days daydreaming, both of being some kind of badass and getting with his new coworker. When the photo destined to be the cover of Life’s final issue goes missing, Walter needs to go on a grand adventure to find the old-fashioned photographer, Sean O’Connel, who sent him the pictures and find his adventurous spirit. And maybe, if he can find the time, fill out his online dating profile.
Journeys of self-discovery are far from a new thing, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is far from the best. But I’d be a damned liar if I said I didn’t love it!
Walter is a fantastic protagonist that fits this story perfectly! Watching him develop from a stammering, nervous idiot to an adventurous adrenaline junky is incredibly fun and satisfying! His slow journey out of his imagination and into reality is equal parts relatable and uplifting.
Every other character is… just okay. None of them are bad per se, but none of them are especially deep or memorable. They help Walter progress through his own story wonderfully, but none of them have much of a story of their own.
Which makes sense. This is Walter’s story.
In terms of pacing, this movie is a bit rough. As I mentioned up front, the story starts off incredibly strong with a great introduction to Walter’s character. Then things slow down for about thirty minutes, not doing much progressing as they slowly set all the pieces of the chessboard into place. Then, once it gets going, it keeps going at a perfect pace right up to the end.
Then there’s the comedy. Not all of it lands, as there are some exchanges that just go on for way too long and some visual gags that don’t make a lot of sense. But it’s balanced out by a fair number of gags that are, at the very least, chuckle-inducing. It isn’t a comedy film, nor is it truly trying to be. But it does a decent enough job.
It isn’t the best story out there. But I absolutely love it! It is a fantastic journey of self-discovery, seeing the beauty in the world, and finding happiness in reality. It is an uplifting journey that I’ll happily go on numerous times for years to come.
All from a movie about a guy that worked at Life magazine.
Visuals: The Beauty of Life
At times, this movie can be really boring and flat. In the more subdued scenes, it restricts itself to simple still shots of people walking or shot-reverse-shots of them talking. It gets the job done, but it is pretty boring.
But then there’s the other identity. The one that most of the film lives with.
This movie has some absolutely breathtaking visuals! From bizarre moments of pure imagination (which are admittedly marred down by aged visual effects) to extreme wide shots just showing off the scenery to creative, breathtaking shots of Walter’s greater struggles. It’s in these moments where the movie goes from okay to gorgeous!
The score is also divided. None of it is bad, don’t get me wrong. But most of the original tracks are generic and forgettable. Luckily, the movie’s choice of insert songs more than makeup for this! They single-handedly escalate the score to god-tier levels!
I mean, come on! David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ plays a central part in the story! That is a good fucking song!
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t the prettiest movie in the world. It’s damn good looking at times, but its divided identity drags it down from perfection.
Performances: Is Ben Stiller Still in Movies?
The answer to that question is kind of. He’s more of a producer nowadays than an actor.
I have no complaints in regards to the cast. Everyone here brings their A-game to their performances. Each of them is perfect for their characters and believable on camera. They have excellent chemistry with one another, making each interaction a delight.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a stand-out performance in this movie. Everyone is just as good as everyone else. Ben Stiller is great as Walter, Kristen Wiig is pretty good as Cheryl and Patton Oswald is just as good as Todd. No one is bad, but there isn’t an actor that will blow you away.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But stand-out performances from certain actors is always a plus in my mind. Not having one doesn’t hurt it. But I thought it was worth pointing out.
There are a lot of movies you need to watch at least once. Which movies are on that list is entirely subjective, of course. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t high on my list. But the fact remains: it is on that list.
I would highly recommend watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty! It is a wonderfully fun journey of self-discovery that is equal parts relatable and entertaining! Regardless of all its flaws, it is one of my favorite movies to come out in the last ten years.
Now, the question is: how does it stack up to the original film from 1947? Or the original short story by James Thurber. I’ll have to get back to you on that.