Daydreaming stopped being considered “cool” after fifth grade.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a quiet, simple and harmless guy who daydreams constantly about wild, unbelievable and over-the-top adventures in which somehow, and in someway, he’s the one who steps up to the plate and does heroic, cool things. However, in real life, he’s just another guy who sits behind a desk at Life magazine, and is desperately searching for his future Mrs. Mitty. He sees this ideal future-wife of his in co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), even if he hasn’t mustered-up any courage to actually go up to her, and ask her out on a date. And while that may have seemed like an objective at one point in his life, now is not that time, considering that he is now searching all over the world for famed-photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), so that he can get the final frame of a picture he sent him, that was already supposed to be on the cover for the final issue of Life magazine. Through this wacky adventure of his, Walter discovers exactly the type of person he is, what he strives to be in life, and whether or not he has what it takes to win Cheryl’s heart in the way that he envisions in his mind.
While everybody knows Ben Still for his over-the-top comedies, the guy definitely has a lot more going on inside of his head than some may think, and this is the prime example of what that is. Remaking the classic Danny Kaye film wasn’t necessarily a very bold-step on his behalf, however, turning the original source material into something of a bigger, and a lot wider horizon, definitely was, especially if you’re Ben Stiller. While the results for this flick may be, at best, mixed, there’s no doubt in my mind that I think we’ve seen a new side to Ben Stiller; as well as one that I hope takes over more, just so that we don’t get another, freakin’ Fockers sequel.
Please, Ben! I’m begging you! No more!
Anyway, what Stiller does here, and does well, is that he gives us a simple tale of a simple man, and for that matter, it’s a pretty simple film. We see Walter as the type of sad-sack dude we all want to feel bad for, which we do, but at the same time, we still root for him as we know that he’s capable of so much more in his life than just going through the constant, day-to-day motions. We know he has a good heart; we know that he can give that heart to any person who is willing to accept it; we know that he cares for the people that care for him; and best of all, we know that he wouldn’t commit any wrong-doings to others, except for the ones who deserve it the most. So yeah, Walter Mitty is a pretty small and tender guy, but he also has a very big heart; the same big heart that Still doesn’t totally cram down our throats, which shows me that he has more resilience in his direction than some may expect.
In fact, I’d even go so far as to wager that some of the best moments in this movie come from when Stiller himself allows for everything to be down-played, quiet and peaceful, as if he himself has finally found a place in his life where he too can calm down, relax and find the more beautiful idiosyncrasies in life. Even if those beautiful idiosyncrasies are such things as staring at a computer-screen, staring at Icelandic mountains, pondering what you’re next move in life will be, etc. In these moments, we realize that while Stiller may love a lot of the insane and highly-electric dream-sequences he’s placed in this flick, he also cares for the character-driven moments where we see Walter for all that he is, and all that Stiller allows us to see of him.
Needless to say, it’s Ben Stiller himself who allows us to see Walter Mitty’s heart and also, to be a guy we care for. And to be honest, I’m a bit of a better person for it. Not only do I realize that Stiller is capable of a lot more than just do his nervous, twitchy thing, but that he’s actually able to take an ambitious story, and turn it into something that not only warms our hearts a bit, but also, makes us feel like we’re not wasting our times either. And I can’t go and tell you how happy I am to actually recommend a Ben Stiller film, right here and right now. You’ve kept me waiting, Ben. But I’m glad you finally paid-off, pal.
It should be said though, that the movie never really goes any deeper than it is, or should be. Instead, it’s just a movie about a shy guy, who discovers the man he can be, just through a couple of life-changing experiences he goes through. Nothing new, ground-breaking or life-changing, but still a simple and sweet tale that’s told with just enough heart and charm. Those looking for anything more than just that, may just be smoking weed before the wrong movie. If that is that the case, then go watch Cloud Atlas, or something of that nature, ya hippies!
Also, it should be noted that Stiller, while anchoring this movie as a director with a keen-eye for visuals, and a soft-ear for quietness, still does a relatively nice job at playing Walter Mitty. He doesn’t necessarily change anything about his persona that we haven’t already seen him do before, but he’s less about trying to force down our throats that he’s trying to be funny and quirky, and instead, is funny and quirky. Even when he does branch-out a bit and show something of a wild side to his personality, it feels real and honest, as if this is actually Walter Mitty waiting to show himself to the rest of the world, and to anybody who will accept him for what he is.
That’s why, even though Stiller is definitely the main subject we’re supposed to be paying attention to the most in this flick, he still lets everybody else in his cast do a little of their own thing as well. Kristen Wiig was pleasant and cute as Cheryl, the object of Walter’s affection, and it was nice to see her down-play it for once in a lifetime; Adam Scott may be too much of a dick as the guy that practically takes over Life magazine and bullies the hell out of Walter, but is still charming enough to watch; Kathryn Hahn gets to be weird and slightly off-kilter as the immature sister of Walter’s, but she never seems like she’s going too overboard with the whole act, and instead, feels like an actual gal who loves her big bro; Shirley MacLaine has a few scenes where you can tell she loves and adores her son, despite him being a stepping-stool for anyone who shows power and command over him; and Sean Penn, for the few scenes that he actually has as Sean O’Connell, is very charming, very strange, but altogether, very necessary for the type of message this movie is trying to force along. Then again though, he is playing a nut obsessed with nature here, so I don’t know how much of it was actually acting, or more of Stiller just finding him hiding up in the mountains, and decided to start the camera rolling.
Consensus: While it may definitely think it goes a lot deeper than it actually is, the Secret Life of Walter Mitty still has plenty of touching, charming and pleasant-enough moments to where you can gain confidence in the fact that Ben Stiller, despite his age, may still be a force to be reckoned with in show-biz, even if it is solely through directing.
7.5 / 10 = Rental!!