Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


Director:Ben Stiller

Cast:Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt

Running Time:114.00


There's a much darker, more interesting movie lurking somewhere inside The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The pieces are all there: a lonely protagonist with an active imagination, the soul-crushing corporate setting, an attraction to a co-worker that borders on obsession. But the version we're presented is a much more buoyant, joyful movie. And there's nothing wrong with that. 

Stiller directs himself in the title role, playing a sad-sack photo developer so wrapped up in his fantasies that he rarely sees the rewarding life right in front of him. When a package containing a rare photograph from an elusive photographer (Sean Penn) arrives missing its prize contents, Walter goes on a transcontinental search for it. 

But he needed a little push. Kristen Wiig plays his co-worker, a manic pixie dream single mom. She encourages him to get outside his own head and into the real world. The scene where his vision becomes reality "” set to Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" "” might just be my favorite of the year.

The film is filled with little special moments, mostly set to a great soundtrack. It's not manipulative, but it illuminates that the movie as a whole is a pretty thin framework. Again, there's nothing wrong with that because it's filled with humorous, good-natured episodes and absolutely stunning cinematography. 

These vignettes, set in Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas, are linked by hilarious phone conversations between Stiller and Patton Oswalt, a dating website technician. They attempt to fill in some of the gaps in the story. They don't get all the way, but any time Patton Oswalt is involved in anything, it's an automatic improvement. 

Despite sacrificing a richer, more rewarding story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty remains a frequently inspiring little film, one thrillingly devoid of any cynicism. It wasn't what I expected, but in some ways it's better than what I thought I wanted. And isn't that how life turns out so often?


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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