Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Splashy, effects-laden remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye romantic comedy classic about a mellow serial fantasist who sets aside dreams to take real-world action gives director/star Ben Stiller plenty to do. Results should square solidly with easy-to-please audiences, especially the Stiller fans among them.

Dec 25, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1391598-Secret_Life_Walter_Mitty_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

As the holidays traditionally breed likeable trifles of many kinds, especially the most colorful and ingratiating, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, on paper at least, seems a suitable entry into the Christmas bounty of big films. Having made its world premiere as a recent New York Film Festival Centerpiece Gala selection, this broadly played and targeted fantasy-themed film now has the opportunity of meeting the real world during the fortuitous holiday period. But with a growing seasonal glut of so much choice and quality available to filmgoers (but often hurting filmmakers), significant success for Mitty may only be in its dreams.

The story unfolds in contemporary Manhattan, where Stiller’s Mitty is a vet photo librarian at Life working the magazine’s negative room housing its fabled photo archives. Although becoming an analog dinosaur, Walter’s at peace with his job but struggles on the romantic front as the shy guy can’t get to first base with work colleague Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), on whom he has a serious crush. But Cheryl, from the magazine’s accounting department, does not elude Walter in his fantasies, including those where he plays superhero to her damsel, notably one in which fired-up dreamer shows Cheryl his heroism with a rescue in a burning building.

Walter’s real-life recourse to find romance is the eHarmony website, but even as he’s mentored by site advisor Todd (Patton Oswalt), he just can’t get his profile right. But things are smooth for Walter on the home front, thanks to support from loving mother Edna (Shirley MacLaine) and kooky performance-artist sister Odessa (Kathryn Hahn).

At the office, matters turn radically grim for Walter after new corporate management imposes a transition to all-digital. Overseeing this initiative onsite is power-hungry new boss Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), a pushy, arrogant corporate jerk who becomes Walter’s nemesis big-time. Our hero’s fantasy battle with Hendricks above and through midtown streets is another of the memorable sequences.

Back in reality, Walter’s problems escalate when Hendricks orders the archivist to find the negative for the ultra-important photo that will grace the cover of Life’s final print edition. Walter scours the archive but cannot put his hands on it. His desperate solution is to travel the globe to find the picture’s famed photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), who, helpful to the plot but not Walter, is an elusive adventurer always out shooting in remote locales.

Walter puts his many fantasies aside to take meaningful action. He journeys here and there to exotic destinations (Iceland, Afghanistan, etc.) to get his man and that precious negative. Details and twists ensue (a really neat one buttons up the film), yet anyone doubting a happy ending doesn’t understand Christmas. But all undemanding fans of sweet, sweeping, romantic adventures in effects-enhanced dream worlds and faraway places will have a jolly time.

While bearing a clever concept (and handsome production), the film unintentionally challenges viewers at least once to distinguish between the hero’s flights into fantasies and his real globe-hops in search of the star shutterbug.

Stiller previously hit solid bull’s-eyes as director and star of Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, which provided some hilarious satire of the fashion scene and film biz. That level of humor is missing from Steven Conrad’s script, although Scott as the imperious boss often tickles.

Mitty does provide some eye-pleasing and popping set-pieces in rough oceans and stunning terrains (Iceland ably stood in for many foreign locales). And it does deliver considerable measures of that feel-good, goodwill spirit of the season. But is all this plus Stiller’s appeal enough to deliver box office?


Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Splashy, effects-laden remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye romantic comedy classic about a mellow serial fantasist who sets aside dreams to take real-world action gives director/star Ben Stiller plenty to do. Results should square solidly with easy-to-please audiences, especially the Stiller fans among them.

Dec 25, 2013

-By Doris Toumarkine


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1391598-Secret_Life_Walter_Mitty_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

As the holidays traditionally breed likeable trifles of many kinds, especially the most colorful and ingratiating, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, on paper at least, seems a suitable entry into the Christmas bounty of big films. Having made its world premiere as a recent New York Film Festival Centerpiece Gala selection, this broadly played and targeted fantasy-themed film now has the opportunity of meeting the real world during the fortuitous holiday period. But with a growing seasonal glut of so much choice and quality available to filmgoers (but often hurting filmmakers), significant success for Mitty may only be in its dreams.

The story unfolds in contemporary Manhattan, where Stiller’s Mitty is a vet photo librarian at Life working the magazine’s negative room housing its fabled photo archives. Although becoming an analog dinosaur, Walter’s at peace with his job but struggles on the romantic front as the shy guy can’t get to first base with work colleague Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), on whom he has a serious crush. But Cheryl, from the magazine’s accounting department, does not elude Walter in his fantasies, including those where he plays superhero to her damsel, notably one in which fired-up dreamer shows Cheryl his heroism with a rescue in a burning building.

Walter’s real-life recourse to find romance is the eHarmony website, but even as he’s mentored by site advisor Todd (Patton Oswalt), he just can’t get his profile right. But things are smooth for Walter on the home front, thanks to support from loving mother Edna (Shirley MacLaine) and kooky performance-artist sister Odessa (Kathryn Hahn).

At the office, matters turn radically grim for Walter after new corporate management imposes a transition to all-digital. Overseeing this initiative onsite is power-hungry new boss Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), a pushy, arrogant corporate jerk who becomes Walter’s nemesis big-time. Our hero’s fantasy battle with Hendricks above and through midtown streets is another of the memorable sequences.

Back in reality, Walter’s problems escalate when Hendricks orders the archivist to find the negative for the ultra-important photo that will grace the cover of Life’s final print edition. Walter scours the archive but cannot put his hands on it. His desperate solution is to travel the globe to find the picture’s famed photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), who, helpful to the plot but not Walter, is an elusive adventurer always out shooting in remote locales.

Walter puts his many fantasies aside to take meaningful action. He journeys here and there to exotic destinations (Iceland, Afghanistan, etc.) to get his man and that precious negative. Details and twists ensue (a really neat one buttons up the film), yet anyone doubting a happy ending doesn’t understand Christmas. But all undemanding fans of sweet, sweeping, romantic adventures in effects-enhanced dream worlds and faraway places will have a jolly time.

While bearing a clever concept (and handsome production), the film unintentionally challenges viewers at least once to distinguish between the hero’s flights into fantasies and his real globe-hops in search of the star shutterbug.

Stiller previously hit solid bull’s-eyes as director and star of Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, which provided some hilarious satire of the fashion scene and film biz. That level of humor is missing from Steven Conrad’s script, although Scott as the imperious boss often tickles.

Mitty does provide some eye-pleasing and popping set-pieces in rough oceans and stunning terrains (Iceland ably stood in for many foreign locales). And it does deliver considerable measures of that feel-good, goodwill spirit of the season. But is all this plus Stiller’s appeal enough to deliver box office?
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Dumb and Dumber To
Film Review: Dumb and Dumber To

Please, guys, don't do this to There's Something About Mary. More »

Beyond the Lights
Film Review: Beyond the Lights

Here we finally have the showbiz drama-romance which Glitter, Burlesque, both versions of Sparkle and countless glitzy but dreary others have tried to be. Immensely enjoyable corn done with maximum hipness, the perfect date movie and showcase for the astonishingly versatile Gugu Mbatha-Raw. More »

Rosewater
Film Review: Rosewater

TV satirist Jon Stewart takes a hairpin turn from comedy into serious territory with his filmmaking debut, a taut political drama based on the true story of Iran-imprisoned Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Pt 1
Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Darker, less action-packed first half of the final installment of the popular franchise moves from arenas to rubble aplenty as Jennifer Lawrence’s super-heroine is called upon to serve her beleaguered and much-destroyed nation as propaganda instrument and leader. Fans of the books and previous two films get a less flashy palette here, but the engaging characters and strong story return to stir interest for the scheduled November 2015 finale. More »

Foxcatcher review
Film Review: Foxcatcher

Character is destiny in this masterfully controlled true-crime sports drama that will likely catapult Steve Carell into the Oscar race. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here