MRR Review: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Movie Review: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Rating: PG

Length: 114 minutes

Release Date: December 25, 2013

Directed by: Ben Stiller

Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Drama


What do actors Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jim Carrey all have in common? They were each, at one time or another, considered for the lead role in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," but each of them lost out and the title role was awarded to America's boy next door, Ben Stiller. If you've been hankering to see Stiller step out of his normal slapstick roles and into something a bit different, you'll get your chance when watching this big-budget holiday comedy, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

This may not be the first time you've seen Walter Mitty brought to life, but it may very well be the best interpretation yet, even surpassing the Walter Mitty that danced at the end of James Thurber's pen back in 1939. Ben Stiller stars as Walter and also wears the director's hat in this remake of the 1947 film by the same name. The Walter Mitty of the original '40s flick was played by Danny Kaye, who gave Walter a great singing voice, if nothing else.

Stiller's Walter Mitty is a man from another era who is faced with losing his job due to downsizing when a magazine decides to discontinue its print edition. Mitty's got an imagination that's larger than life—often imagining his own life as if he's living in the middle of some action-packed movie filled with scenes starring him as the hero who wins the hearts of the ladies. In reality, Mitty is a photo archivist who finds it hard to adapt his analog personality to the new digital age, and he has allowed a photo chosen for the final cover of a soon-to-be-defunct magazine to slip through his hands. If he can't find it, his job is teetering in the balance, so he sets out on a search that will take him to far off locales and that morphs into a misadventure of the funniest kind—a real-life adventure that is nothing short of surreal and ends up being so far flung even Mitty himself would have had trouble imagining it.

Mitty is helped along the way by the girl of his dreams, his biggest crush, Cheryl, who also works at the magazine. Cheryl is played by the naturally funny Kristen Wiig ("Saturday Night Live"). An alpha male only in his imagination, Mitty appeals to Cheryl because he is thoughtful, filled with goodness, and he has a sense of humor that is quiet yet present. The scenes between these two talented and funny Hollywood greats are filled with the kind of charisma you'd expect when two like-minded personalities collaborate on any film. There's energy between the two that leaves you hoping they'll find one another. You'll cheer for Mitty as Cheryl's unlikely suitor; he comes across as a guy who has paid his dues and deserves to catch a break—and get the girl.

One pleasant surprise in this film comes in the way of the unexpected inclusion of Shirley MacLaine as Mitty's mother. A bit of backstory reveals that Mitty has worked all his life, been so responsible and dedicated to his job, because he has been supporting his mother and sister ever since he was old enough to deliver pizza.

One thing that takes some of the wind out of the sails of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is its abundance of corporate overtones via a number of product placements. There's the eHarmony plug, the Papa John Pizza plug, and the Cinnabon plug. There are shout-outs for Facebook, Instagram, McDonalds, Nabisco,, Heineken, and even Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Still, as commercially absorbed as "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" appears to be, the film is well worth seeing if for no other reason than to see Stiller flex his acting talents with a balance of comedic genius and believable role play. Audiences who loved Stiller in some of his more outlandish flicks, such as "Zoolander" and "Tropic Thunder" will find this film right up their alley, but it will still appeal to audiences who preferred a toned down Stiller in "Night at the Museum" and "Starsky and Hutch."

This film pays homage to the idea that we all have this inner hero who is begging to be released—although it takes real courage to stop imagining ourselves being the hero—and actually start doing it. Bottom line, if you're a fan of Ben Stiller and looking for a feel-good comedy to watch during the holiday break, you've found it in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Rating: 3 out of 5