If you’re looking for a feel-good, family friendly flick with a touch of comedy this holiday season, Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the movie for you. This isn’t Stiller’s usual wacky comedy like Zoolander or Tropic Thunder; Stiller broadens his directorial range and acting skills in this film about a daydreamer longing for adventure and love.
Based off of the short story of the same name by James Thurber, Ben Stiller directs and stars as our title character. Walter Mitty (Stiller) works as a photo archivist at “Life” magazine in New York City. He lives a simple, uneventful life, but longs for more including a relationship with fellow co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). An avid day-dreamer, Walter frequently “zones out” and fantasizes about everything from saving a puppy from a burning building, traveling across the world, sweeping Cheryl off her feet and standing up to his new boss Ted (Adam Scott).
Ted reveals that the next issue of “Life” magazine will be its last and the magazine will soon become an Internet publication. When the cover shot image for the final magazine goes missing, Walter decides to track down famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) who took the picture. Walter travels to Greenland, Iceland and a few other countries to locate Sean and hopefully find the missing frame for the final cover.
Stiller always surprises me with not only his impressive acting skills, but also with how much love he has for filmmaking. This is Stiller’s most visual film by far and it’s obvious that he and the cast had an incredible time making this film and the fun shows through the articulate camera work, gorgeous cinematography and excellent acting from a talented cast of supporting characters including Patton Oswalt, Shirley McLaine and Kathryn Hahn.
I adored Kristen Wiig in this type of role. The hilarious actress is usually playing goofy and weird supporting characters, (which she is fantastic at) but it was refreshing to see her as a normal female co-worker who has a little crush on Stiller’s character. Wiig and Stiller had perfectly awkward and nerdy chemistry, which made them charming to watch together on screen.
The cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh (The Tempest & Nim’s Island) and Stiller is absolutely breathtaking. The majority of the film takes place in New York City, but in the second act of the film, much of it was shot in beautiful Iceland. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Stiller’s character skateboards down a country road in Iceland. We get sweeping views of the picturesque mountains and of the smaller fishing towns around the coast of Iceland.
The soundtrack, especially the songs “Dirty Paws” by Icelandic group Of Monsters and Men and “Far Away” by Junip, speaks so true to Walter’s character and journey. I could listen to the soundtrack over and over again.
The screenplay, which was adapted by Steven Conrad, (The Pursuit of Happyness) is light and airy. At 114 minutes long, the films feels a little bit longer than it should and midway through the film, a little momentum is lost, but picks back up again with the introduction of Sean Penn’s character.
The very last scene of the film is not only the best, but also one of my favorite scenes all year. I pleasantly surprised, I laughed and cried. What makes Walter Mitty so enjoyable is the fact that we are witnessing a coming-of-age story of a 40-something guy, who has fulfilled his lifelong dream of pursuing an adventure, which reminds us all its never too late to pursue your dreams.