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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Movie Review - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley MacLaine, and Sean Penn
Directed by Ben Stiller

There's a lot to admire about Ben Stiller's directorial effort The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in which the daydreaming title character -- a photography manager at Life magazine -- ponders all kinds of fantastical adventures that showcase his imaginative romantic and heroic sides.  However, once the unique direction and pleasant acting are pushed aside, you're left with a film that admittedly has a lot of heart, but very little story and substance.  While the technical achievements and unique execution of the film are stellar, I found myself wishing that the film was about twenty minutes shorter which would've certainly condensed the simplistic story down to a length that would've been more successful.

At the film's outset, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) has just discovered that Life magazine is shutting down its print edition and many of its employees will be given the pink slip by incoming transitional manager Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott).  When Life's premiere photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) sends Walter a new set of photos, he also includes a letter (which he also forwards to Life's bosses) stating that Picture #25 exemplifies the "Quintessence of Life" (or perhaps the "Quintessence of Life") and should be given prominent placement on the cover of the magazine's final print issue.  The problem -- Walter never actually received Picture #25 or, if he did, he seems to have misplaced it.  Obviously, with his job on the line, he can't reveal this to Ted who wants to see the picture ASAP.  So, with the help of his crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), Walter sets out to find where exactly the elusive Sean O'Connell is located in order to try and track down Picture #25.

As previously mentioned, Walter is a huge daydreamer and prior to heading out on his mission to find Sean, his simplistic and lackadaisical life is only ever brightened by the vivid imaginative creations in his mind.  These fantasies are cleverly realized by director Stiller although they begin to wear thin prior to Walter setting out on his trek.  Once on his journey, Walter's daydreams nearly become realities as he's forced to find bravery in himself that he never knew he possessed.  While that message came through loud and clear -- and I found it refreshingly simplistic yet surprisingly grown-up for a PG-rated film -- the outrageousness of certain aspects of the plot dragged down Walter's tale.  His journey to become more courageous, outspoken, and self-assured didn't resonate as much as I would have liked.

As an actor, Stiller is fine (although I think part of the aforementioned lack of resonance does stem a little bit from the fact that he makes his character's emotional journey seem a little too obvious), but the real star is Kristen Wiig who is utterly charming as Walter's crush Cheryl.  Anytime she was on the screen, I found myself smiling and truly rooting for Walter to succeed.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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