“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is an imaginative, adventurous, and all around satisfactory, wholesome movie starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, and Shirley MacLaine. This year’s holiday season has been filled with thrilling, comedic, and graphic movie presentations that may be too much for some, but “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” lends a different tone, as it presents a feel good, great film for the whole family.
Based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” tells the adventures of Walter Mitty (Stiller), a somewhat shy and awkward, but smart daydreamer full of imagination. Working for "Life" magazine, Walter spends his days fantasizing about being a hero, talking to his co-worker crush (Wiig), and seeing the world. Working in the “negative assets” department, Walter has an outstanding performance record, but when a negative copy of an important photo that is to be used for the magazine’s final issue goes missing, Walter’s life begins to drastically change as he searches the globe for the photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Penn) and the lost photo.
One of the most powerful elements in this film is the use of cut scenes, dream sequences, and wild adventures that play out Walter’s fantasies and imagination. One minute everything is normal for Walter, and then suddenly, the scene is interrupted with loud special effects, character action, and slightly unrealistic scenarios. There is a part where Walter and his boss (Scott) are having a confrontation, and Walter zones out and imagines soaring through the city and fighting his boss like something out of “The Matrix.” This can be confusing as the scene goes completely off the rails without notice, but most times after playing out Walter’s vision, everything settles down and goes back to reality. These jumps in and out of reality are quite entertaining, and it is amusing to see Walter snap back into reality with people calling his name while he stares off into the distance. Walter’s imagination only begins as fantasy, but as the film goes on, he begins to actually experience real life adventures. The special effects and scene transitions are more than satisfactory, and there are outstanding camera shots of mountains, oceans, volcanoes and other scenery. There are many fantasy or silly scenes throughout the film, but these are presented to look the best on screen as they possibly can.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is filled with inspirational quotes, mission statements, and personal slogans that present themselves to Walter throughout and seem to encourage Walter, as well as audiences, to dream, use their imagination, and live life to the fullest. Once Walter embarks on a real life journey to search for the lost photo and its photographer, he realizes that his exploits are beyond his wildest dreams. As the movie goes on, his imaginary zone outs become less and less as frequent as he makes his own real life adventures. He continually fantasizes or comes in contact with Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig), his love interest, and she seems to always be a motivating factor for Walter. There is a level of romance between the two, but it is far from a traditional romantic comedy. Despite the high level of plot activity in the film, everything comes together nicely, giving an extremely satisfying feeling to the viewer.
In the end, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a cute, fun, and a quite likeable film for just about anyone and can be seen over the holidays along with films like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” and “American Hustle,” which are great for some crowds, but may be too much to handle for little ones or while sitting next to grandma. Above all else, enjoy the variety of fantastic movies available this season.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence. Running time is 1 hour and 54 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.