Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Now at Netflix: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) - Directed by Ben Stiller; Written by Steve Conrad; Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley MacLaine. Patton Oswalt.

By Kenny Howell

Walter Mitty is needing a change.

He is played by Ben Stiller as a wide eyed dreamer, but doesn't really take action in his real life. People push him around, and he doesn't have the confidence to approach the girl at work that has caught his eye.

What he does is disappear into his own head, and lives the life he wants to live. He imagines himself the hero of action films, using characters in his real life, beating up the jerk at work (Adam Scott, A.C.O.D.), all to win the heart of the girl (Kristen Wiig, Anchorman 2).

But that has to end eventually. What spurs that change is he is in danger of losing his job. He handles the negatives of all the great photos that have graced Life magazine. Just like a lot of the print industry, Life is on its way out. The digital age is here, and a drastic downsizing is on the way.

For the last issue, famed photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn, Gangster Squad) has a photo that is perfect. Problem is, the negative is missing from his roll, and Mitty's job is in jeopardy even more so. That forces him to make a choice. Start taking chances and live life to the fullest. He has to track down O'Connell, who is somewhere in the wilds of the world. It leads him to Greenland, Iceland and beyond.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a nice movie. It hit at a perfect time, the Christmas season, when many families head to the dark cinemas to get away from the hectic holiday. It was perfect for that. But with its faults, it is not anything more than that. Stiller and Wiig are good, and Scott is excellent as the sucky boss, but there are some glaring problems.

My biggest problem is Mitty's dreams. His day dreams seem like those of a 12-year-old, which makes me think that Mitty never necessarily matured fully. He dreams of fighting his boss in the streets, on skis, tearing up asphalt. Men daydream about saying the right thing at the right minute (jerk store!), or punching out their boss, getting the girl, but I doubt they go to these childish lengths. I did when I was younger, but now they just seem silly.

The other major problem is the overwhelming amount of advertising stuck in this movie.

"There's a Papa John's in Iceland," Wiig's character says at one point. Add that to KFC, Chase Bank, eHarmony, and many others that fill the film. I understand that things need to get paid for, but it did become a distraction when it became a part of the characters dialogue.

The movie is relatively safe, so if you are looking for something to enjoy the family, you could do worse. The preteens and young teens may relate with Mitty a little better than the adults, but it should have been the other way around.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is also available at Redbox, iTunes and Amazon.

Rating: **1/2

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