The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller, who also directs, looks great, lacks heart.
If you love the Zoolander star and don’t mind that this movie generates the occasional weak smile rather than huge laughs, then this self-indulgent, CGI-heavy Stiller world tour will make you happy indeed. Mitty was the central character of the 1947 fantasy starring Danny Kaye, based on the very brief James Thurber-penned short story in The New Yorker; the name has become synonymous with dreamers of this world. Now Stiller takes on the tale, directing from a script by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man). Risking his skin in his daydreams is a good antidote for the real danger lurking in the magazine’s halls. Mitty’s daydreams are also sparked by his secret crush on co-worker, Cheryl (a pleasingly low-key Kristen Wiig). With the final issue of Life about to go into production, Mitty has been tasked with printing the cover photo from a negative sent by reclusive and rebellious superstar photographer and perpetual globetrotter, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). But the precious negative has gone missing and finding it is the only thing standing between Mitty and a layoff notice.


The calculated layering of adventures and heroics, all involving long frame-filling close-ups of Mitty looking pensive or wide-eyed, show a variety of computer-generated splendours that don’t seem to be in service of anything.
Stiller’s relentless focus on his own character leaves others poorly realized and the heart of the story pales amid the spectacle. Paralyzed by family responsibilities and the daily work grind, Walter finds solace in his day dreams, where he rescues dogs from burning buildings, pummels his overbearing boss in a cartoonish street fight, and woos the woman of his dreams, accounting staff member Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).However, when it is announced that Life Magazine will cease publication of physical issues, in a move to the online market, famed Life photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends in a final cover image that he claims will capture the  “quintessence” of the iconic magazine. He updates it in sort-of fashion with reclusive Mitty, now a bachelor, toiling in the decidedly archaic photo negative department of Life magazine.
Corporate hatchetmen (led by a snide Adam Scott) have landed and are showing much of the staff the door as Life is repurposed as a web-only publication. In a flash, the coffee room at work falls away as Mitty swaps his nerdy, putty-coloured windbreaker for vibrant mountain climbing gear and a handsomely ice-covered beard to woo Cheryl by fantastic means. A The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gag is the most obvious example, dropped in for no other reason than to show it can be done.
Deeper messages than chasing your dreams are lost to the slick, ad campaign-style bigness of the pursuit.


But the exercise is without heart or genuine emotion, a missing element that constantly niggles as the film progresses.
Yet, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a surprisingly impactful and uplifting film experience on par with some of the year’s best indie offerings – one that is elevated further by the sharp eye of Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano). Kristen Wiig as Cheryl Melhoff in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’Viewers who are expecting an adaptation of the short story or a remake of the earlier film production will find that this iteration of Walter Mitty is almost entirely new. As a result, some viewers will be surprised to discover that playing a convincing and relatable everyman, rather than an over-the-top cartoon character, is fully within the actor’s repertoire.
Stiller’s take on Walter Mitty isn’t going to win him an Academy Award nomination but there’s a subtlety and sincerity in his execution that is right at home with the film’s enjoyable balance of humor, philosophizing, and drama.



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