The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Walter Mitty is a negative assets manager at Life magazine who daydreams of adventures and has a crush on a coworker named Cheryl. Mitty works with photojournalist Sean O’Connell, whose images are highly regarded. O’Connell has sent Mitty his latest negatives and a wallet as a gift in appreciation of Mitty’s work. O’Connell believes negative #25 captures the “quintessence” of Life and that it should be used for the cover of the magazine’s final print issue as it converts to online status. The negative is missing, however, and Walter is forced to stall for time with corporate transition manager Ted Hendricks, who is handling the downsizing. While viewing the other negatives outside Life’s offices, Cheryl approaches Mitty and suggests that he think of the negatives as clues to Sean’s location. They look at three of them, including one of a person’s thumb with a unique ring on it, and another of a curved piece of wood. A third picture of a boat leads Mitty to determine that O’Connell is in Greenland. Mitty promptly flies there to find him.

A bartender in Greenland explains that O’Connell left on a ship. To find him, Mitty would need to go on the postal helicopter, and the pilot is drunk. Mitty recognizes the pilot’s thumb with the unique ring and realizes he is on the right track. He at first declines to fly with the intoxicated pilot, but imagines Cheryl singing “Space Oddity”, gains a new confidence and boards the helicopter. Nearing the ship, Mitty learns the helicopter cannot land upon it. Misunderstanding the pilot, instead of jumping into a dinghy boat nearing to catch him, Mitty aims for the main vessel and misses. He splashes down into ice-cold, shark-infested waters, losing a box of ship-to-shore radio components before being brought aboard.

Mitty learns that O’Connell departed the ship earlier. The crew offers him some cake O’Connell left behind; Mitty discovers O’Connell’s destinations in the wrapping paper. The itinerary directs Mitty to Iceland, where O’Connell is photographing the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. An eruption forces Mitty to flee, and as there is nothing left for him to do he obeys a text message recalling him to New York.

For failing to recover the negative, his first failure in a long career with the magazine, Mitty is fired. He learns that Cheryl, who was let go earlier, seems to have reconciled with her estranged husband. Mitty returns home discouraged, throwing away the wallet when he visits his mother. To his surprise, Mitty recognizes the curve of the piano in his mother’s house while looking at the last photograph. When asked, Mitty’s mom mentions having met O’Connell. She had told Mitty before but he was daydreaming and failed to hear her.

Mitty discovers O’Connell is in the Himalayas, and finds him photographing a rare snow leopard. When asked about the negative, O’Connell explains that the message on the gift wrapping to “look inside” was literal; the negative was in the wallet. When pressed to reveal the image on the negative, O’Connell dismisses the question and joins in a high-altitude soccer game with some locals. Mitty flies to Los Angeles but is detained by airport security during a misunderstanding. Mitty calls the only person he knows in Los Angeles: Todd Maher, a representative at eHarmony who has kept in contact during Mitty’s adventures.

While helping his mother sell her piano, Mitty recounts his story but mentions he does not have the wallet anymore. His mother says she always keeps his knickknacks and gives him the wallet that she retrieved from the trash. An emboldened Mitty delivers the negative to Life magazine, tells management that it was the photograph O’Connell wanted for the final issue, and berates Hendricks for disrespecting the staff that made the magazine so honored.

Mitty reunites with Cheryl and learns that Cheryl’s ex-husband was only at her house to repair the refrigerator. Mitty tells Cheryl of his adventures and admits that he still does not know what negative #25 shows. Mitty and Cheryl see the final issue of Life at a newsstand, with its cover dedicated to the staff. It is accompanied by the photograph from negative #25, showing Mitty sitting outside of the Life building, examining a contact sheet. Mitty and Cheryl continue their walk down the street holding hands.

REVIEW:

I swear, everytime I went to the movies earlier this year and last year, there would be a trailer before the trailers started and then a trailer proper for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Eventually, they wore me down and I wanted to see it, but not so sure it would have been worth seeing in the theater, as it looked to be too much on the drama side, as opposed to the adventure genre. Did I make a mistake by waiting? Was this worth watching at all?

What is this about?

In this remake of the 1947 classic comedy, shy photo manager Walter Mitty is constantly daydreaming to escape his humdrum life and domineering mother, but when he gets embroiled in a real-life adventure, he discovers that being a hero is tough work.

What did I like?

Solid as a rock. Ben Stiller has had quite the intriguing career up to this point. For the most part, he is a comedic actor, but usually he is cast as the straight man who gets to crack a joke or two. That is, unless he is doing a cameo or something along the lines of Zoolander. As Walter Mitty, he gets to go back to a bit more serious role, and he shocks all of us that forgot this guy is capable of acting.

Cameos. A couple of characters make effective cameos. First, Patton Oswalt as some sort of eHarmony technical support guy that Stiller’s character becomes friends with over time. Is he just a voice, or a real person? Do we ever get to meet the guy? You just have to wait and see. Speaking of mysterious beings, Sean Penn’s character, the elusive and reclusive photographer Sean O’Connell inspires Stiller to track him down in a quest to find the missing negative #25, only to find out that it was somewhere he hadn’t looked. Still, having Sean Penn as this mysterious, strange character was inspired casting, as he was a nice addition to the cast.

Fantasy. In its heyday, Scrubs was one of my favorite shows, mainly because of how J.D. would zone out and have these outlandish fantasies. The same kind of idea applies with Walter. His fantasies, which become less and less as the film progresses, are the kind that we all have, such as wanting to have an epic throwdown with out dick of a boss. Many people say that the love story or the character development are the best part of this film, but I prefer the fantasies.

What didn’t I like?

Peach fuzz. Adam Scott has made a career out of playing a dick, save for his role on Parks & Recreation. It is a role that suits him, that’s for sure. However, he needs to face the fact that some men just aren’t meant to have facial hair, especially a full beard. It just doesn’t work. For me, looking at him, I couldn’t help but laugh at how fake that beard looked. If that was real, that’s even worse! The beard was so out of place that Stiller’s character make mention of it!

Losing what works. I haven’t read the book that this film is based on, so this point is null and void if the movie isn’t faithful to the source material. The fantasy element that I mentioned earlier which was gradually faded out caused the film to lose some of its lighthearted feel. Sure from there on the action is more prominent and all, but there is just something that fit this character better when he was daydreaming about climbing the Himalayas, rather than actually doing it.

Anticlimactic meeting. The whole film, we hear about Sean Penn’s character as if he was some sort of superhero, but when we finally meet him, he’s just the typical character played by Penn. I wish they would have done something more with him, even if it was to make him more eccentric looney, playing up the comedy angle of the film. At any rate, I felt that after all the hoopla there was before the big reveal, if  you will, as well as the epic journey Stiller’s character embarked on to get to him was a bit anticlimactic, especially since he had already been fired. So, what was the point?

I really don’t have much else to say about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This is a solid film, with surprising performances from comedians Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig. Mixing comedy, drama, and adventure, this film manages to strike a nice balance among them all, never allowing the film to become heavy in one genre or another unless it is time. Do I recommend this film? Well, I won’t not recommend it. For me, it was a bit slow in parts and there just wasn’t anything to make me want to come back and watch it again. It just exists, but I won’t dissuade anyone that wants to see it for themselves.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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