Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Movies

'Secret Life of Walter Mitty' review: Vivid as a daydream & just as meaningful

See also

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' is a well-intentioned, sweet adventure that resorts to obvious ploys in its effort to 'inspire' and 'uplift.'

In short: Office drone Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) escapes his mundane life though heroic, romantic and action-packed fantasies. But when Walter is forced to leave his small life and track down a legendary photographer (Sean Penn), he begins an adventure across the globe. (watch the trailer)

This film exists on two scales: this movie captures Walter's meek existence as well as his over-the-top, skewed fantasy world.

Stiller deserves credit for essentially playing two very different versions characters: awkward, 'real world' Walter - and his brave, fearless fantasy counterpart. Real world Walter never says the right thing - he is the antithesis of smooth or cool. 'Fantasy' Walt leaps from buildings, puts jerks in their place and gets the girl.

'Walter Mitty' is at its best in cross-cutting Walter's vivid, amazing daydreams against his mundane existence. But as the film moves along, 'Walter Mitty' becomes a series of small episodic adventures that never quite add up to one grand adventure.

Instead, the result is a series of pit stops around the globe, with Walter interacting with a number of quirky characters. These characters rarely add anything of thematic significance, often slow down the film's momentum and turn Walter's great adventure into a meandering journey all over the world.

One disappointing difference between the film adaptation and the original short ultimately changes the core of 'Walter Mitty.' In the short stories, Walter rarely - if ever - triumphs at the end of his daydreams. That fantasy Walt is brave, but he is not immune to failure. In this film, Walter's fantasies usually end on a victorious note - just before he's snapped back to reality.

This small difference fundamentally redefines the character's core themes. The short stories reveal a meek man who can't even ultimately win in his fantasies - allowing a commentary that is critical of escapist daydreaming. This film - by allowing Walter small, fleeting victories in his daydreams - has a central theme of living/experiencing life and not just imagining adventures.

Ultimately, this adaptation is about a man learning to live life and not merely exist. This sentiment is fine, except this sugary message is executed in a less than subtle manner - one that, at times, borders on insulting.

While various characters break down the meaning of life and living, the most blatant insulting example involves the motto of Life Magazine - a creed that preaches living life. The audience is then beaten over the head with this direct, wordy motto again and again and again. It's etched into a lobby wall, engraved into a gift and repeated more times than necessary.

Such needless repetition is not endearing - it comes across as a filmmaker's ill-advised way to never let the audience forget the film's core theme.

An audience specifically instructed to 'be inspired' cannot be genuinely inspired by an ineffectual story and manipulative storytelling.

Final verdict: 'Walter Mitty' strives to tell an life-changing, inspiring story - but fails due to its jagged, wandering story and near-insulting spelling out of the film's central theme. 'Forrest Gump' is how to execute/weave an episodic grand adventure with meaningful themes - 'Walter Mitty' is no 'Forrest Gump.'

Advertisement

Today's top buzz...

  • Coachella
    Get ready for the second weekend of Coachella with this fun guide
    Camera
    Music News
  • St. Louis Rams
    The Rams are offering $100K to anyone who can guess their 2014 schedule correctly
    NFL News
  • X-Men
    The final 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' trailer is here, and it's marvelous
    Camera
    Hot Trailers
  • Russell Westbrook
    See the NBA playoff teams that might consider making a panic trade
    Video
    NBA Buzz
  • Paul Walker
    Paul Walker's brothers will stand in for him on the set of 'Fast and the Furious 7'
    Video
    Movies Buzz
  • Matt Moore
    Rays pitcher Matt Moore will be undergoing season-ending elbow surgery
    MLB Buzz

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about Examiner.com and apply today!