News

REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ worth exploring

REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ worth exploring

Photo: Associated Press

Genre: Comedy | Run Time: 114 min | Rated: PG
Director: Ben Stiller | Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn

By George Wolf

The closing credits of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty inspired some immediate soul searching. Why didn’t I hate this movie?

With generalized themes of empowerment strategically layered with soaring music, it has all the trappings of a shallow, follow-your-dreams retirement fund commercial that airs during the Super Bowl.

And yet, director Ben Stiller supplies enough visual style and unabashed earnestness to make his new adaptation of James Thurber’s classic story a surprising success.

Stiller also takes the lead role as the legendary daydreamer. This Walter Mitty works in the photo department of Life magazine and secretly pines for co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) For years, Walter has handled the submissions from prized photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), but as layoffs mount and the last issue of Life draws near, the image that O’Connell has earmarked for the final cover goes missing.

Leaving his mundane schedule behind, Walter embarks on an around-the-world search for the elusive photographer and the lost photo. Through the terrain of Afghanistan to the wilds of Iceland and beyond, Walter follows O’Connell’s trail, racking up incredible life experiences with each new day.

Setting a film about seizing the fullness of life inside the waning days of Life magazine sounds obvious and cheesy, right? Right, and left to its own devices, Steve Conrad’s script would keep the film comfortably in that neighborhood.

Credit Stiller for the vision to see the bigger picture. On the surface, it might seem more natural for Stiller, who brought a wonderful edge to Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, to return to the satirical tone of Thurber’s original story. Instead, he fully embraces the larger than life quality of this treatment, filling the screen with glorious on-location sequences and truly sublime visuals.

Stiller the actor follows suit with a restrained lead performance. The antics of Danny Kaye’s 1947 film version are long gone, as Stiller’s Walter is a true introvert learning to embrace change.

Wiig also dials it down, replacing her trademark quirkiness with a quiet sweetness while Penn, in what amounts to little more than a cameo, has some subtle fun with his rogue persona.

Yes, Walter Mitty stages a calculated assault on your feel good bone, but with tactics this good-natured and timely, it doesn’t hurt a bit.

Description: Verdict-3-5-Stars

Recently Played

Latest Headlines

in Entertainment

‘Siri, can you give me a hint?’ Apple confirms September event

16-overlay14

The rumors are true: Apple will host an event Sept. 9 in San Francisco.

in Viral Videos

This is one way to get a tan

10-overlay22

It's summer and the beaches are packed - so this guy got some private sunbathing time while sky high.

in Entertainment

Netflix drug drama ‘Narcos’ blurs line between cartels, agents

11-overlay7

Not all cops are good guys and not all drug suppliers are obvious villains in the dark drug drama "Narcos," a bilingual examination of the history of cocaine smuggling in America and its most menacing supplier.

in Music

VMA Preview: Bieber’s back, Miley hosts

13-overlay12

Designer Jeremy Scott says to expect the unexpected when comes to the fashion and the music at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards.

in Entertainment

The secret to Rob Lowe’s ageless face

17-overlay12

The 51-year-old actor will star in a new series this fall, "The Grinder," and still looks as good as ever.