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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Ben Stiller
Kristen Wiig
Adam Scott
Shirley MacLaine.
Directors
Ben Stiller.
Screenwriters
Steve Conrad.
Running Time
125 minutes

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The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
The Fable Guy


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Plot
Walter Mitty (Stiller) lives his life quietly, afraid to stand up for himself when his job at Life magazine is threatened and scared to confess his feelings to his co-worker, Cheryl (Wiig). He finally embraces life when he loses a vital photo needed for Life’s final issue and the only way to retrieve it is to find the photographer, who could be anywhere in the world.


Review
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
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Walter Mitty is a man, and that’s really about it. He is a person who doesn’t so much defy description as fail to invite it; someone who fades into the background even when he’s alone. He works in the picture department of Life magazine, a once mighty publication that is now closing due to changing markets and passionless moneymen who can’t think outside a spreadsheet. There he fiddles about with negatives and goes unnoticed, even by the one person he’d care to pay attention, newly single accounts worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). But all that is just the outside. Inside Walter is a world of adventure and amazement. In his daydreams he’s the hero who leaps into a burning building to rescue a helpless dog; the brave mountaineer who marches to claim the girl; a warrior who battles bad guys on skyscrapers. Though all anyone else sees is a fortysomething man, staring into nothing. This is the story of turning his inside out.

This version of Walter Mitty is, like the 1947 Danny Kaye film, an adaptation of James Thurber’s 1939 short story, in so far as any feature-length movie can be an adaptation of a story with fewer than 2,000 words. Both take the premise of a man who escapes his own drabness with flights of fancy, and the fact someone else had the original idea should steal no credit from screenwriter Steve Conrad, who has built a plot on a single brick from Thurber. Thurber’s version of Mitty, who has settled for moments of daydreaming in a mundane life, is just the first 20 minutes. The rest, in which Mitty decides daydreaming is not enough, is all invented, and very well.

Mitty is a huge step for Ben Stiller as director. Playing the title character he is quiet and touching, devoid of his signature fits of anger, but he’s always been a talented actor. Compared to the other men who were, at various times, in the waiting room to play the title character — Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen — Stiller is more naturally low-key, less of a show-off. It’s tough to imagine Baron Cohen or Myers doing the underplaying necessary for someone who’s the straight man in every encounter. Fine as he is in front of the camera, Stiller’s never been nearly this impressive behind it. His previous films, particularly the last three — The Cable Guy, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder — have a confident, if sometimes indulgent, comic structure and a large amount of cynicism. They would laugh at things — at the vacuous fashion industry or the self-important film industry — which is a fruitful position for comedy, because it risks very little, but here he’s sincere. Sincerity is difficult in modern cinema. If a single speck of falseness is evident then all deflates into schmaltz, and if you’re sincere without a hint of humour, everyone will go home bored and lectured. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is funny but not a comedy. Its laughs mostly come from the oddness of situations rather than jokes. Stiller clearly wants his audience to leave thinking and lifted, but not hectored. He’s striving for inspirational, and if you miss that by the smallest margin then you’re left looking hokey. You want to be a Jimmy Stewart movie, not a Robin Williams movie.

The reason it works is because Stiller keeps his eye on what Walter is after. The journey is huge but the goal is small; it won’t change the world, just his own. Walter’s path to a more interesting life begins when he sets himself a quest to track down a negative, sent to him by a reclusive photographer (Sean Penn, with a macho twinkle and magnificent hair) as “the quintessence of Life” and the perfect image for the magazine’s final cover. It’s lost before it even arrives. As the voyage grows, the play with fantasy changes. Early on, Walter’s daydreams will literally crash through into reality, such as in the beautiful moment when he, as a mountain climber, cracks through an office wall to romance Cheryl. But as the story develops and Walter begins an expedition to Greenland the fantasy becomes less heightened, until Walter’s own life becomes magic enough. The melding of imagined and real is done gently, without recourse to any ‘maybe it’s all in his head’ copping out. Stiller is, evidently, at heart just a big romantic.

There are times that he appears nervous about his ability to carry off a Big Film and he scuttles to comfortable ground, falling back on a cheap laugh. A Benjamin Button sequence could have come straight out of Tropic Thunder and its goofiness, while funny, sits clumsily. But Stiller has it. He’s up to the task. This is an intense workout for a director. There are action sequences (in the air, in the water and involving superpowers), there is romantic comedy, there is a touch of The Apartment-style corporate drama, there is a volcanic explosion and a bit with a shark. There’s a brilliant shot telling the history of a magazine with just a dash down a hall (it must be said that Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography is wondrous throughout), and some ingenious use of text. It’s all very ‘look what I can do, Ma’, but comes off not as showing off so much as having fun playing. It would be no surprise if he now finds himself on the director shortlist for just about any big project looking for a steady hand.

Necessarily, though, it is not just a series of set-pieces; Stiller’s found a grasp on emotion he hasn’t shown before and a view on the world (a bit exasperated at the generation that photographs everything but looks at nothing). The most striking scene in the film is just two men, sitting on a ledge, watching the world and letting a moment disappear. The whimsy, gorgeous as it is, is all bonded together by the simplicity of a man who for all the wonders he sees, both inside and outside his own head, is just looking for a bit of reality that is his.


Verdict
As a director, this feels like Stiller’s moment. Mitty is a film that bravely rejects cynicism. In many ways, it’s the new Forrest Gump. Go with it and it is, in all senses, wonderful.


Reviewed by Olly Richards


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Average user rating for The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
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Walter Mitty review

http://booksdragonsanddietcoke.com/2014/08/25/the-secre t-life-of-walter-mitty/ Check out my review on my blog. Have fun! Movie wasfun,charming,and had well placed comedy not normally a thing from Stiller. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by prontron07 at 04:47, 08 September 2014 | Report This Post


Painfully dull, with some nice vistas.

My title says it all. Avoid. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Azzurro06 at 23:15, 28 March 2014 | Report This Post


A beautiful, wonderful, feel-good movie.

Some people have called it boring. Well, go and watch die hard, things blow up, I'm sure that'll keep your attention. What kept my attention in this film was the beautifully directed and wonderfully shot scenes of our amazing planet. Ben Stiller is fantastic and kudos to his talent for as a director. I gave this film ★★★★ See my full review here: http://bigscreenbullfrog.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/the-s ecret-life-of-walter-mitty ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BigScreenBullfrog at 13:36, 15 February 2014 | Report This Post


RE: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

I actually loved this movie. Ben Stiller is under appreciated as a director. ... More

Posted by BrodysBoats at 20:52, 29 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Pointless remake number 1234574679896545 ... More

Posted by spamandham at 12:15, 28 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Thoroughly enjoyed this movie... ... More

Posted by LewisHartleyReviews at 20:08, 27 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: I loved it.

L: tommyinglis Everything from the acting (Kirsten Wiig was so much better than I thought she'd be) to the message blew me away. It's visually amazing, the dialogue is good, and it's a type film that doesn't get made too much these days. I will definitely watch it again. quite agree. ... More

Posted by m_er at 10:03, 19 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: A TRIP WORTH TAKING!!!!

L: Qwerty Norris By the way doc, after seeing this yesterday I'm in complete agreement with your review. er what, we AGREE on a film? ... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 08:30, 13 January 2014 | Report This Post


I loved it.

Everything from the acting (Kirsten Wiig was so much better than I thought she'd be) to the message blew me away. It's visually amazing, the dialogue is good, and it's a type film that doesn't get made too much these days. I will definitely watch it again. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tommyinglis at 17:32, 12 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: A TRIP WORTH TAKING!!!!

By the way doc, after seeing this yesterday I'm in complete agreement with your review. ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 14:59, 12 January 2014 | Report This Post


A TRIP WORTH TAKING!!!!

Surprisingly good movie from Ben Stiller! As a director and star, Stiller does a fine job of adapting James Thurbers classic short story as he plays the famous daydreamer. Much like Forrest Gump but just a bit smarter, we encounter Walter at his hum drum office life working at Life Magazine as a photographer looking for a vital photo to keep his job and losing his chance to date his fellow co-worker Cheryl. Cue loads of crazy "daydreaming" sequences....be it saving a dog from a burning bu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 22:48, 07 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: boring

L: Qwerty Norris Out of interest doc, when was the last time you enjoyed yourself at the cinema? Judging by the reviews of yours I've read recently, it has been a while. ote] I actually thoroughly enjoyed Frozen.There has been stuff I've enjoyed, but overall I think it's been an even worse year for cinema, at least of the mainstream kind, than last year. ... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 12:26, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: boring

If this is "the new Forrest Gump" I'll eat my cock off. ... More

Posted by UTB at 00:25, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: boring

Out of interest doc, when was the last time you enjoyed yourself at the cinema? Judging by the reviews of yours I've read recently, it has been a while. ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 22:53, 30 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: boring

Walter Mitty is an employee at Life magazine who frequently daydreams of fantastic adventures which usually involving him rescuing his co-worker Cheryl Melhoff, with whom he is in love. Photojournalist Sean O'Connell has sent a special photograph that he says captures the'Quintessenc' of Life magazine and that it should be used for the cover of the magazine's final issue. Mitty works in the negative assets department, and has never lost a photo in his sixteen years of work at Life magazine, but... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:08, 30 December 2013 | Report This Post


boring

boring film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dinkydog at 00:03, 30 December 2013 | Report This Post


Boring but the soundtrack is very good.

A few funny scenes and a great music throughout but it's dull and boring. walked out half way through ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dinkydog at 00:02, 30 December 2013 | Report This Post


Saw this in November at a Secret Screening. Expected it to receive poor reviews as its dull as dishwater. I'm amazed some people actually like it. The new Forrest Gump? It's not a patch on FG! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by skeletonjack at 17:51, 29 December 2013 | Report This Post


solid

yeah, it's as nice as this review makes it out to be. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 16:43, 29 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

More or less the opposite of the original story's irony. Stiller's movie is irony-free, but it's sweet and affecting nonetheless. ... More

Posted by chang at 08:48, 28 December 2013 | Report This Post


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Amongst the group of American comedic actors known as the “Frat Pack” – including Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson – Ben Stiller was the most interesting as not only did he have his funny moments or he’s an interesting film director with films like the cult favourite Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. Having done satire, Stiller provides something different in his fifth feature as he tackles James Thurber’s classic short story about an everyman who has a knack of daydreaming. Working ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 00:47, 27 December 2013 | Report This Post


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