Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

A warm and feel-good movie is what most people want when they hit the movie theater on Christmas day. That is what they will get. Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty lets the viewer relish in daydreams and sees how a man changes because of them. The film is a loose take on the 1939 short story of the same name by James Thurber.

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Stiller, along with directing the movie, takes on the main role of Walter Mitty. Walter is a quiet and closed-off person working at Life magazine as a Negative Asset Manager. His life is pretty bland. He is an expert at balancing his checkbook but cannot muster up the courage to “wink” his crush and fellow co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) on eHarmony. He has a bad habit of zoning out at times. He drifts off into vivid daydreams filled with things he wish he could say and places he wish he could visit. His daydream self has a strong confidence that his real-life bland office worker self does not.

There is a disruption in Walter’s life. Life magazine is scheduling its last print edition and going to online. Walter is tasked with the important role of providing the negative #25 photo by famed photographer Sean O’Connell, to be used as the cover for the final print issue. The negative #25 cannot be found however. It seems to be lost. Walter does not have it in his hands.

Teetering on the edge of getting laid off, Walter travels to Greenland and Iceland to track down Sean O’Connell. He needs the photo. The expedition yields more than just work duties. Walter is diving into the unknown. He is being adventurous for the first time in his life. The empty travel journal that his father gave to him before passing away when Walter was 17 is finally getting used.

The film wavers a bit with its daydream to reality sequences. Many critics have pointed out to the fact that the film loses steam. It’s pointed out that logic and imagination is not properly balanced. This is a good observation but slightly missing the point. Stiller does make a distinction between reality and fantasy. He does weird things (like throwing away the Sean O’Connell gifted wallet) because he is functioning on auto mode. His life is just going with the flow and not really observing what exactly is going on in front of him.

Although The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been getting mixed reviews it is a solid film to see. There is no other movie that will give you a warm mushy feeling inside than this (maybe Christian Bale’s comb over in American Hustle will hold you over).  The film provides great visuals and a predictable but good ending.

One thing stuck in my head after viewing the film: You cannot decide what to do with your life by sitting and thinking hard, it happens through taking action. This is exactly what Walter Mitty does in the film. B-