Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is always fantasizing about a more phenomenal lifestyle that's more exciting, more romantic, and basically everything his life isn't and everything he wishes it would be. As an employee of Life magazine, Walter is mostly invisible to everyone else around him. But when Life is taken over by new management who plans on streamlining the company by letting a lot of people go and being purely an online outlet, Walter is given the task of developing the negative for the cover of the final issue of Life magazine. When the negative turns up missing and Walter is suddenly next on the chopping block, his life of normalcy is thrown headfirst into a white knuckled adventure that sees him visiting multiple continents, meeting his idol, and finally getting to know his dream girl.
Internet dating is portrayed very accurately in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." While eHarmony was always a little too pricey for someone who frequented the free dating sites, the nervousness regarding winking or messaging a new love interest is still there as is the hounding of completing your profile. It's a pleasant surprise seeing Patton Oswalt show up as often as he does. He's mostly just the guy on the other end of the telephone, but it pays off in a big way that easily seems to utilize the comedy Oswalt has become known and loved for. His enthusiasm for Walter's new found heroics is also extremely amusing.
From the perspective of someone who isn't familiar with the short story the film is based on or the original 1947 film, the most appealing aspect of "Walter Mitty" going into it was that it looked very similar to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Even when you're waist deep into the film, the spectacular cinematography continues to reel you in even after Walter ceases his daydreaming. Life magazine's motto is more of a mainstay to the storyline of "Walter Mitty," but the motto is almost like a parallel to Alexander Pope's Eloisa to Abelard being used in "Eternal Sunshine."
The film is also able to introduce you to a character that is extremely easy to relate to. As a soft spoken guy who has always been uncomfortable in social situations, mostly failed at the conquest of romance, and struggled as a bit of a mumbling buffoon, Walter is like the poster child for the voiceless. Seeing Walter's marvelous journey unfold is like a hopeful push in the right direction that is both uplifting and inspiring to those who may have a difficult time finding passion or interest in this massive sea known as the everyday world around them. Walter may keep to himself, but his imagination is always burning bright and making his life interesting.
Walter's adventurous and explosive segments of "zoning out" are strung together by a ton of humor that is sure to get its fair share of laughs. Walter's fight over Stretch Armstrong in the elevator with newly appointed boss Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) seems to borrow from "The Matrix," "Terminator 2," and even the chicken fight segments from "Family Guy." The "Benjamin Button" daydream may be the most memorable due to how humorous it is as is just about everything in Greenland.
If that wasn't enough, the people around Walter who he loves and looks up to are also very down to earth. Newly hired Life magazine employee Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) is Walter's current crush. Cheryl is just trying to make a living to support her son after going through a divorce. Wiig portrays a woman who is not only approachable but easy to talk to. Her “Major Tom” sequence in Greenland is not only a major turning point for the film, but quite possibly Wiig’s standout scene. Walter also looks up to a photojournalist named Sean O'Connell played by Sean Penn. While Penn's role is very small, the famous photographer doesn't let fame go to his head and seems very modest despite not having a stable address, the internet, and is practically unreachable at all times.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" captures your imagination with Walter's daydreams, hits home with Walter's awkward behavior, and is inspiring to anyone who has mostly kept to themselves over the years with Walter's unbelievable journey. The fantasy adventure lets imagination and reality collide in the most fantastic of ways. It's the story of plain, ordinary, and unexpected people becoming extraordinary and dreams coming true. For once, the man behind the man gets recognition. The unthinkable and the impossible become the achievable in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" will be released in theaters on Wednesday, December 25.