News

REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ worth exploring

REVIEW: ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ worth exploring

A SECRET LIFE: Ben Stiller, star of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Photo: WENN

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

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Oakland’s Johnson designated for assignment

Fresh
Oakland Athletics pitcher Jim Johnson (45) is relieved by manager Bob Melvin, rear, during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. The Indians won 6-4. Johnson was the losing pitcher. In front is Athletics catcher Derek Norris.

Johnson, acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, was 4-2 with a 6.92 ERA in 38 games with the A's.

in Sports

Two Texas football players charged with sex assault

Fresh
Texas head coach Charlie Strong listens to a question from a reporter during the Big 12 Conference NCAA college football media days in Dallas, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Spokeswoman Cindy Posey says the players charged Thursday are wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. Sanders also faces a charge of improper photography.

in Sports

Cavaliers sign rookie Andrew Wiggins

Fresh
Top NBA draft prospect Andrew Wiggins of Kansas prepares for an interview during the NBA draft lottery in New York, Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

The Cavaliers have signed No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, a contract that prevents him from being traded for 30 days.

in Sports

Knoblauch charged with assaulting ex-wife

Fresh
Minnesota Twins' Chuck Knoblauch takes a hard swing at a pitch by Cleveland Indians pitcher Chad Ogea, and falls down as he misses the ball in the second inning in Minneapolis, Saturday, July 13, 1996.

Knoblauch has been released on $10,000 bond. His first court date is set for July 30

in National, Sports

Ohio State University fires marching band director

osu

OSU has fired the director of its celebrated marching band amid allegations he knew about "serious cultural issues" including sexual harassment.

Bellingham Traffic