As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been hearing stories about different people becoming attached and detached to an adaptation of the classic short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” which was turned into a 1947 Danny Kaye comedy. Since then, the likes of Jim Carrey, Owen Wilson, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mike Myers were all attached to play the lead role of the daydreaming Walter Mitty. It was only a matter of time before the role ended up in the hands of Ben Stiller, who also directed the film.
Stiller has experience with directing, and he sure as hell tries hard, and these efforts have yielded great results – of the four previous films he directed, none of them were “terrible” (although many believe the pitch-black The Cable Guy fits this mould). The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is as very different film. It has minimal comedic moments (Kristen Wiig, one of the funniest women alive, has an insanely serious part). However, what it lacks in comedy it compensates for in sheer beauty – beautiful landscapes, great cinematography and dreamlike imagery make this film seem larger than life.
This film is very flawed – as beautiful as it is, the story is very limp. Stiller tries to infuse a dull story with as much life as possible by having several self-indulgent moments of adrenaline and excitement, but the fact remains that the story was missing a lot between the ears, making it seem like just a long commercial for a Nike “Just Do It” campaign (one of the more accurate comparisons I’ve read). The original film had a more solid story and different situations that show that Walter Mitty doesn’t only want to be an adventurer – he wants to be a doctor, an astronaut. That was bogged down to create the image that only rugged outdoorsman can get the girl, not the more intelligent type.
This isn’t a bad film, and it will probably stand as one of the most beautiful comedies of the 21st century. Unfortunately, it won’t stand as one of the more well-executed films, because the story is there, but it is needlessly traded in for just some exciting moments to make you get a warm fuzzy feeling. But for its sheer scope, beauty and great performances from Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Kristen Wiig (with a painfully short performance by Shirley MacClaine), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is quite something.