After 16 years of service as a negative asset manage at Life Magazine, 42-year old Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), who has spent most of his life on the sidelines daydreaming, finds that the negative for the last print issue’s cover by elusive photojournalist Sean O’ Connel (Sean Penn) is missing. With his job on the line, Walter tries to track down Sean all the way to Greenland, Iceland, Los Angeles, the Himalayas, Yemen and Afghanistan, with only Sean’s last photographs as clues. Helping him in solving the mystery is his colleague and secret crush, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), who inspires him to take action and do the things he never thought possible.
Actors, especially comedians, often reevaluate their career paths after doing the same thing for a long time. And while Ben Stiller has had great success in developing really funny characters in the past, it did not come as a shock that he would want to eventually take a different direction for himself as an artist. In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben takes on the role of director, producer and lead actor, a difficult feat to balance and accomplish – and somehow pulls it off.
Perhaps it was because the story in itself inspires awe in people. First of all, it connects immediately to the average Joes — millions of audiences who work hard day in and day out doing their normal routines, not venturing on anything else because adventures are too dangerous, or travelling is too expensive. Second of all, the story is just so sweet and whimsical that it immediately inspires positive feelings.
In my opinion, the style in which Walter Mitty was executed was very well done. The cinematography and long shots covering the vast landscapes, capturing the magnificent colors, were truly breathtaking. The treatment of Walter’s dream world and reality were on the other hand, were very well transitioned, given the contrast in their presentation styles. I also liked the development depicted in Walter’s life where his daydreams eventually fade because he was already living out the adventures in real life.
Ben Stiller is a very charismatic guy. He gives life to Walter’s everyman so effortlessly and the wonder in his realization that he is actually accomplishing something and getting somewhere from the small clues that Sean left was a joy to behold. Walter had great chemistry with Sean, the photographer even from the time that they have not yet met. Sean’s fondness for Walter was so evident that that when they finally came face to face, their rapport was already very strong. Kristen Wiig (SNL, Bridesmaids), on the other hand, is a crazy talented actress. She does comedy, she does drama, she does girl next door, she sings and does crazy stunts and she always nails it. She just brings sunshine into this film.
In terms of pacing, there was a lot of changes in the pace of the movie. Its speeds up and slows down at different points of the film so it wasn’t monotonous. I would have wanted the action to kick up more after Walter’s first trip but a part of me also understood the need to ground him first before he jumpstarted his next adventure. I liked that despite Walter’s wallflower tendencies at work, he was loved by his family not just because he was a good provider and a responsible son/brother but because he was a good person. Many films make the mistake of making the lead characters’s homelife miserable on top of his problems at work that it gets easily depressing.
All in all, Walter Mitty accomplishes to deliver a feel good movie that inspires people to live in the moment. It inspires people to be brave, get out of their shell, build relationships and experience life. It is also a homage to the regular people who do their best everyday despite the lack of recognition, yet continue to do so quietly because they want to make other people happy. The final scene when it was revealed just what was in Life’s last cover was just so touching it would be close to impossible not to tear up. Ben Stiller did a great job with this movie. It was an inspirational movie that that did not take itself too seriously. Rather, it worked hard at establishing the main character’s relationship with the audience so that he brings them along for the ride the entire time. Its message: There’s a Walter Mitty in all of us and we are just as important and as capable of doing great things just as he did.