UK Release Date: 26th December 2013
Runtime: 114 minutes
Director: Ben Stiller
Writer: Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn
Synopsis: A daydreaming office worker sets off on a globe-trotting journey in the real world to locate a crucial lost photograph.
Sneaking into the festive schedule to round off 2013 in film is the latest film from Ben Stiller, co-starring Bridesmaids actress Kristen Wiig. But, despite the central cast, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t a broad comedy. It is, in fact, an intelligent and interesting drama that explores the limitations of the human existence. And it’s pretty funny too.
Walter (Ben Stiller) works with photo negatives for Life magazine, lusting after his colleague Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and disappearing into crazy fantasies during the day. When a new boss (Adam Scott) arrives and tells his workers that Life is moving online, the lay-offs begin and Walter must travel the world for real to uncover a missing picture from famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) for the final front cover.
The first thing to say about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is that it’s more intelligent than people are giving it credit for. It’s worth thinking about the ending a bit outside of the box.
It tells the story of a man who really wants to do something interesting, but life (quite literally – he works there) keeps getting in the way. His mind constructs his ideal world around him so that he never has to confront the inadequacies of his existence.
For me, Ben Stiller’s eponymous character is one of the more interesting dramatic creations of the year. He is perfectly cast, packing his natural charm and wit into the performance. He could easily have gone down the zany Jim Carrey route (he was originally attached) with the role, but he underplays the character perfectly, ensuring that Mitty remains believable, even as his life becomes unbelievable.
Stiller must also be praised for the visual style of the film, which has great verve and flair. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a visually stunning piece of work that brings to mind the jaw-dropping ingenuity of Life of Pi during its more ambitious moments. These moments of flair contrast beautifully with the dark room in which Walter works and the sterile environment of the Life offices.
The only criticism would be that Kristen Wiig’s love interest character feels underused and the film takes well over half an hour to truly kick into gear. That said, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a really witty, warm dramedy to round off 2013.
Pop or Poop?
Ben Stiller proves that he has real directorial flair and ability outside of broad comedy with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Kristen Wiig is sadly underused opposite him, but there’s a real warmth to the narrative.
The film has visual flair in abundance and has far more of an interesting message than the film’s marketing and indeed the critical reaction would have you believe.
This is an end of year gem that deserves to be seen. If only the Academy weren’t so afraid of comedy.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.