The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starts in typical Stiller territory but it pleasingly gets better with age. It’s also directed and produced by Stiller himself, surely one of the most bankable stars in comedy. It’s a surprisingly odd film, the type in which I’m sure Netflix will smugly and inevitably categorise as a ‘cerebral comedy’ in a few months time, whatever that means.
The character of ‘Walter Mitty’ dates back to a 1939 short story published by the New Yorker. Mitty’s an average chap with an overactive imagination, dreaming his life away. In the film he works by developing slides for Life Magazine, which feels like rather archaic employment which doesn’t quite add up to what otherwise feels like the present day. The magazine is being ‘transitioned’, meaning job losses and a move online by a badly bearded Adam Scott. The boss wants a the final cover to be a picture from Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), an esteemed photojournalist. Mitty has lost the slide, leading to an epic, outlandish journey to track it down, taking place all in his mind or in reality, depending on how you choose to see things.
The film begins with Mitty trying to ‘e-wink’ at a co-worker via an online dating site, only for the computer to reject his advances. Kristen Wiig plays an amiable love interest but the film shines in its strange choices, from adventures in Greenland and Iceland to the Himalayas. It’s a dreamy little thing with more decent indie music than any film starring Ben Stiller has a right to claim. It’s overlong and rarely hilarious and it is a little corny, certainly. It’s hard to find much which really stands out about the film but it actually adds up to more than its parts. It’s got a neat twinkle in its eye, offering a few twists on a lot of formulas.
Review by David Rank
MFR Rating: 3/5
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is out on 26th December in the UK and 25th December in the US . Running time 114 mins. Certificate PG (UK).