Ben Stiller has officially set his ambitions much higher than opening an Institution for “Kids Who Can’t Read Good or Do Other Stuff Good”, and he’s proved that with the (so far) divisive film, “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty”. I fell in love with the film’s first trailer, a beautifully shot “music video” for “Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters And Men. However, my anticipation subsided as early reviews came pouring in. It wasn’t all as great as the well-edited trailer made it seem. However, I was lucky enough to see “Walter Mitty” a month early the other night, and now I can see this: I may end up against the herd here, but “Walter Mitty” is the feel-good movie of 2013, and may be one of the best that the end of this year has to offer. The film follows the titular character as he prepares to lose his job, embarking on a final quest to find a missing photograph, allowing him to escape from his boring life and daydreams.
The film rests on the shoulders of its director-star Ben Stiller, and Stiller suitably steps up to the plate. He’s less ridiculous than some of his bigger comedic characters of the past, but Walter Mitty is one or the first characters of Stiller’s that feels real. Stiller plays him with an incredibly sympathetic realism and likability that carries throughout the film as Mitty delves into a very well-defined and engaging character arc. However, the supporting cast is very well-rounded for a film named after one man. Kristen Wigg is at her best as the love interest, and Sean Penn is amazingly profound in his short appearance, which also ranks as one of the film’s best scenes. Patton Oswalt and Adam Scott round out the cast with funny, important appearances.
The story of the film, if indicated by the film’s trailers, rests entirely on the daydreams that Walter Mitty delves into when he gets bored with his everyday life. However, that’s not really the case. In fact, the daydreams which are littered around the first 20 minutes of the film are some of the weakest points, including a dreadful “Benjamin Button” parody which is as unfunny as it is nonsensical. However, not all the daydreams are this bad, and nor are they consistent, since when the true story of the film gets going, it becomes more of a globe-trotting, heartfelt journey of self-discovery that makes for one of the year’s sweetest films.
Stiller takes us to fantastical locations in “Walter Mitty”, shooting gorgeous landscapes and imagery with awards-worthy cinematography. That, matched with the film’s undeniable sweetness, makes Walter Mitty one of the most likable films of 2013, and it is certainly one of the most heartfelt. As the mystery of the film unravels over time the “a-ha” and “aw” moments pull at the heartstrings even more, creating a film that feels emotionally satisfying and stylistically daring. It may divide critics, but there’s not much more I could ask for. It’s exciting, it’s heartfelt, it’s funny, and in the end, it represents a true underdog story in its most heartfelt form, set against the fleeting era of print journalism’s decline.
FINAL GRADE: 8.5/10
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty will be released in theaters on December 25, 2013.