We go to the movies for several reasons; to laugh, to be amazed, to be informed, and sometimes to be inspired. Films utilizing the latter have become scarce in today’s times of big budget action films, raunchy comedies, and Oscar-starved dramas. So it’s a bit refreshing to have a feel good movie with the intention to encourage.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty originates from a 1937 short story and later a 1947 film. I am familiar with neither. You probably aren’t either, which is a good thing, because this film stands on its own. The only thing this version has in common with its predecessors is the titular character and his tendency to zone out into outlandish daydreams.
Ben Stiller, who also directed the film, stars as Walter. This time around, the character is a single, middle-aged, photo manager for Life Magazine in the final days before the popular publication goes full digital and renders his job, and the jobs of many others, obsolete. Day to day in his humdrum life, Walter drifts off into fantastical daydreams that allow him to picture himself saying and doing all of the things he’d like to do in real life; being heroic, hooking up with his attractive coworker (Kristen Wiig), telling his new boss (Adam Scott) to shove it. I’m sure we can all relate.
But, believe it or not, it isn’t the random Family Guy-esque cutaways that make this film enjoyable. The real adventure begins when Walter treks off on a European scavenger hunt to find the missing photo meant for the cover of Life Magazine’s final issue; a photo described by photographer Sean O’ Connell (Sean Penn) as the “quintessence” of Life. In fact, the film’s most fun moments come from actual occurrences along Mitty’s adventure; a tussle with a drunken helicopter pilot, Mitty being rescued from shark infested waters, his conversations with an overly friendly eHarmony customer service rep (Patton Oswalt).
Many of the movie’s fantasy sequences can be seen in trailers and commercials. If that draws you in, you might be disappointed. If it doesn’t, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised and more than likely inspired by Walter’s personal and physical journey. It is without a doubt one we can all learn from as we approach a new year with new possibilities and opportunities.
FINAL GRADE: B+