When I first saw the previews for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I thought that it looked really interesting and even epic at times, yet the film itself has garnered some negative reviews. So I went to see it, hoping for a good movie, but preparing myself in case it was a letdown.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is all about Walter (Ben Stiller), a man who lives what we would consider an average life. He gets up, goes to work in the photography branch of Life Magazine and comes back home. Then he starts the day all over again. Walter lives vicariously through his imagination. He has vivid daydreams that let him be the person he wants to be and live out the incredible situations he wishes he could. Walter has a crush on a fellow employee of Life magazine, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). However, outside of his daydreams, he can’t really garner the courage to talk to her. Walter works in the photography branch of the magazine. Unfortunately, Life Magazine is leaving behind its magazine roots and exclusively changing to an online only company which means there will be downsizing. This company change brings in a powerful and obnoxious corporate CEO named Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) to decide who will stay with the company and who will go. Before the magazine turns into a website only, it must print out its last issue. A famous photographer named Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) commonly sends him photographs from his expeditions. He sends Walter a special collection of negatives including one that claims to have the “quintessence of life” attached to it. This is the photograph that should be used for the cover. The only problem is, the photo is missing without a trace. Walter is going to have to step out of his daydreams and into the real world. He’s going to have to go on an epic adventure to find the photo.
Ben Stiller is excellent as Walter. This is his first dramatic role in a long time. It’s a far cry from Zoolander. Although, I do love that movie.
In the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller possesses layers of shyness, dejection, humor, and bold imagination. He starts out as a man whose life is so average he lives through his imagination. He’s so afraid to talk a coworker that he makes an eHarmony account and decides to attempt to talk to her there. When he signs up, he is confronted with the fact that he’s never really been anywhere or done anything especially substantial in his life. It’s interesting to see him go from the comfortable, but lonely guy who doesn’t change his daily routine to a man willing to jump out of a plane into freezing shark infested waters. I thought Walter’s character development in this film was especially impressive. Ben Stiller did a wonderful job showing that he can do more than just be the typical comedic character. He can be a serious actor as well.
Kristen Wiig plays Cheryl, a single mother who works at Time Magazine with Walter. Again, much like Ben Stiller, I’m used to seeing Kristen Wiig in strictly comedic roles. It was neat to see her expand her acting horizons and play a character with more depth. That’s not to say she isn’t hilarious because I think she is, it’s just good to see comedic actors take on deeper roles and prove they can do any genre. Cheryl was a great supporting character because she motivated Walter to get out of the fantasy world and live his life, even when she had no idea she was doing it. She’s kind, caring and smart. Kristen Wiig was a breath of fresh air in this movie, she did a fantastic job.
Adam Scott plays Walter’s extremely rude and obnoxious boss, Ted Hendricks. Ted is the main antagonist of the story. He publicly humiliates Walter on several occasions and acts like a middle school bully in the corporate world. It was quite surprising to see Adam Scott playing a role like this. I’m a big fan of the TV show Parks and Recreation. If you watch Parks and Rec, you know he plays Ben Wyatt, a serious but kind city manager who will do anything for Leslie Knope. That’s why it’s so strange to see him play a bad character in any movie. He’s completely obnoxious to everyone in this movie. Basically, he is the definition of a terrible boss. It was hard for me to watch Parks and Recreation the next day because he was such a jerk in this movie.
Sean Penn plays free-spirited, bohemian, adventurous photographer, Sean O’Connell. If you took away the photographer aspect of this character, I honestly think Sean Penn might just be portraying himself. There may not have been a ton of acting involved here. His character was a neat addition to the movie because he helped Walter see the importance of day to day life and encouraged him to live in the real world.
Final thoughts and My Rating:
On Walter’s journey to find Sean O’ Connell and the missing 25th photo, he sees some amazing things. We get to see Greenland and Iceland in this movie. How many movies have footage of Greenland and Iceland? Not many. I can’t think of another one at the moment. It’s great to view these beautiful areas of the world as such a major part of a Hollywood movie.
You also get to hear about and see Papa John’s several times because who DOESN’T love some good old fashioned product placement? I know I do. Remember the days that we watched movies and a Coke bottle was blatantly placed in front of a character with the logo facing the screen like so:
2003 Product Placement Techniques. So subtle.
No longer my friends! That is a thing of the past. Welcome to 2014. We’ve moved on to new techniques. Product Placement is now a part of the character’s story. I was very skeptical when Papa John’s was name dropped the first few times, because I really hate product placement. You see, at the young age of 6, I tried to understand why characters always had the bottles or a product turned in the exact angle that the camera was pointing. It was then that my Mom explained what product placement was to me. I have loathed that concept every since. However, I will say, in this movie, they did a pretty good job of making it a legitimate part of Walter’s story. Granted, I’m probably ok with it because Papa John’s has such great pizza.
I really loved the way this movie started with Walter living though his elaborate daydreams. Anything that seemed impossible or crazy, he dreamed up in a scenario in his mind. Then, as the film progresses, he starts to live out an actual adventure and finds that real life can be even better than living in your mind. The daydreaming becomes less and less frequent as his journey keeps going because he’s finally enjoying his life.
The music accompanies this movie wonderfully and fills the scene with Walter’s newly adopted adventurous spirit.
I would definitely recommend The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s got a gripping adventure, well thought out character development, beautiful cinematography, comedy, drama, and romance. There’s something for everyone in this movie.
My rating: 9/10