Saturday, December 28, 2013
In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Walter (Ben Stiller) is an exceedingly regular kinda guy, with 15 years at Life Magazine, working with photo negatives in a dark archival room, along side a nice, but overweight, equally dorky guy (Adrian Martinez). Like most of us who are still looking for love in our late 30's and 40's, we find ourselves spending a lot of time with siblings and our parents, and in my case a 70 year-old aunt. In Walter's case a sister (Kathryn Hahn) still holding on to low level acting aspirations and a mother (Shirley MacLaine) who needs help moving into a retirement community.
At the beginning of the movie Walter's idea of bravery is to step out and join eHarmony so that he can send a wink to a new employee at work, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) after overhearing the object of his office crush is currently active on the dating site. Only this wink never goes through, prompting Walter to call eHarmony and speak to a rep, which becomes an amusing running gag throughout the movie. It was driving me crazy, by the way, trying to figure out who the actor was behind the eHarmony rep voice - Patton Oswalt from King of Queens, which makes sense that he'd know Ben Stiller after working with Stiller's dad, Jerry Stiller all those seasons.
Video below one of my favorite songs, which is featured in the movie - David Bowie - Space Oddity (stereo version)
Anyway, if you didn't already know, you've probably heard by now, the main plot of the movie is based on a short story of the same name, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1939 by James Thurber, about a meek, mild-mannered man who leads a vivid fantasy life. Most of us keep our imaginative dreams and fantasies to the confines of our beds before rising, the shower or perhaps on our commute to work. Walter's fantasies just take over to the point that others around him wonder why he's simply staring off into space for long periods of time. A quirk that far from endears him to his new, snarky boss (Adam Scott) sent to manage the transition of Life Magazine from a newsstand publication to an online magazine.
The final print edition of the magazine hinges on the cover photo shot by the magazine's most honored and esoteric photographer (Sean Penn) who declares the picture to be the "Quintessence" of Life. And what image would represent the Quintessence of life? No one knows as the negative didn't arrive with the rest of the roll of film. The movie really takes off, when Walter leaves his fantasies behind and embraces real adventure in search of this elusive photographer in hopes of securing the photo.
I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I came out of the theater thinking the movie was damn near perfect. But then I read a review which criticized all the product placement - Papa Johns, Cinnabon (good food in film moments) and eHarmony. This reviewer also felt Thurber's original story is not being served in director Ben Stiller and writer Steve Conrad's movie. Then he points out there's no actual chemistry between Stiller and Wiig. He sums the movie up by saying - As watchable as his movie is, it’s hard to discern exactly what Stiller is trying to say. Walter literally evolves from meek wallflower to heroic adventurer over the course of a week, and the ultimate result is a date with a girl who seemed to like him just fine before the feats of derring-do... Jeff Meyers MetroTimes
Tinsel & Tine SummationPerhaps Jeff makes some good points, but even he had to admit the movie is watchable, and that it is! It's a film that really takes you along for the ride. I liked the clever visuals in signage, the gorgeous landscape shots and it's inspiring to see Mitty/Stiller's face completely change and come alive with exuberance and robust pride as one adventure follows the next.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty makes you wish you could shed all fear of the unknown and follow Life Magazine's motto:
T &T's LAMB Score: 4 outta 5