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

Recent Headlines

in Sports

NLDS: DeGrom outduels Kershaw, Mets beat Dodgers; Lackey dominates, Cards blank Cubs


Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Saturday. The Cardinals turn to lefty Jaime Garcia against Kyle Hendricks for the NL wild-card winners. Zach Greinke starts for the Dodgers against Noah Syndergaard for the Mets.

in Sports

ALDS: Alberto, Rangers beat Blue Jays in 14th; Royals even series with Astros

Rangers win in extras - Twitter

The Rangers take a 2-0 lead back to Texas for game three on Sunday.

in Sports

Bae leads an International team rally amid Mickelson mistake at Presidents Cup


Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson were assessed a one-hole penalty at No. 7 when Mickelson used a different model golf ball, ultimately costing the Americans the match.

in Sports

NYC jury acquits Atlanta Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha in police fracas


A Manhattan jury found Sefolosha not guilty Friday of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule


Here's a look at some of this weekend's big sporting events.

Bellingham Traffic