Do you daydream? Of course you do. We all do in one way or another. However, we may not quite reach the level of Ben Stiller's Walter Mitty in the new movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" opening today, December 25. Ben Stiller not only stars in the title role, he directs the movie too.
Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine in the negative assets department. He receives a role of film from famed photographer, Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) signifying that one of the photos should be used as the last cover shot for the magazine.
Walter lives a great life of adventure and intrigue, and this assignment provides the seed for a new quest. One thing you need to know about him is that all of his prior exploits take place in his mind.
The movie gets some things right and some things wrong. The characters that inhabit "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" are some of the most exceptional ones to grace the screen in 2013. Steve Conrad, might have written his best screenplay to date. In addition to Stiller and Penn, Adam Scott and Shirley MacLaine both fill out their roles perfectly and Kristen Wiig is just beautiful in the movie in every sense of the word.
While Ben Stiller was the perfect choice to play Walter Mitty, he was not the best person to direct. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" makes it pretty clear that Stiller is best behind the camera directing comedies like "Zoolander" and "Tropic Thunder". On a movie like this, where he is trying to do something deeper and make a connection with the audience, he comes up short.
A number of the fantasy scenes come across well and are pretty funny. Sometimes the fantasies are simple, like thinking how he should have said something clever in a given moment. Other times they are so outrageously off the wall. It is in these that he shines. He often tries to utilize the perfect piece of music to make the audience really feel a connection to Walter and in those moments the effort is too apparent. Maybe he had trouble balancing his directing and acting duties in those scenes, but in the moments where he really wants the audience to connect with what's going on screen they don't. In the hands of another director "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" could have been one of the best movies of the year.
Ben Stiller did expand his directorial horizons in one way and that was with his visuals and how he shot the movie. Keep an eye on how he makes a lot of the scenes perfectly symmetrical; the long rectangle of a hallway, for example or an over the head shot of people pouring out of a subway onto a circular pathway. The movie has some sweeping shots in places like Greenland and Iceland when you almost feel Walter Mitty might cross paths with Bilbo and the Dwarves from the Hobbit movie. If you saw "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" without sound, Ben probably appear to be a better director.
There are a lot of movies to choose from on this Christmas Day. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" may not be the best choice out there, but most viewers will probably not walk away too disappointed. That is not the most ringing endorsement, but Walter Mitty could probably imagine a worse one. It is Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence.