Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty leads a boring life. He’s never had an adventure, nothing extraordinary has ever happened to him. Instead Walter daydreams, envisions how he is a heroic mountain climber or a fearless man saving a dog from a fire. But in reality he’s just another cog in the machine, an introvert who goes unnoticed working in the photographic department of the legendary LIFE magazine. When the print run of the magazine is about to come to an end, Walter is tasked with handling the picture that will be featured on the final cover. There’s only one problem: the picture’s negative is nowhere to be found. This leads Walter on a journey to find the photographer responsible for the cover picture, in hopes of finding the negative before LIFE’s last issue’s deadline.
It’s a compelling story, told with earnestness and visual flare. Walter Mitty’s journey takes him to some wonderful locales, their beauty captured by Ben Stiller’s confident direction and Stuart Dryburgh’s stunning cinematography. The daydreams are also a marvel to behold, but they can be jarring sometimes: there’s a stab at a major motion picture for example that doesn’t quite gel with the tone of the overall narrative. It’s a shame, because in essence Walter Mitty’s story is a small and quiet one of self-discovery that doesn’t need some of the more conventional traits that are implemented to get the audience’s attention. There’s an attempt at a love story that doesn’t quite work because it’s not needed, and the addition of a very caricatured company man, the yin to Mitty’s yang, does only distract because, again, it doesn’t go with the tone of the rest of the movie.
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty isn’t a bad film by any means: it’s very uplifting, looks beautiful and Stiller’s performance is endearing. But unfortunately the film’s inconsistent and has trouble focussing its attention. There’s much to love about Walter Mitty (a stand-out sequence in Iceland come to mind, as well as Sean Penn’s performance as the elusive photographer), but its lack of moderation keeps it from greatness. 7/10