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December 22, 2013

Film Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by Stephanie Dawson

The feel-good film of the holiday season is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Director and star Ben Stiller plays the title character, a photography asset manager at Life Magazine whose imagination often whisks him away into incredulous—and even absurd—adventures to escape his mundane life. But like all of us, Mitty has dreams and aspirations he is just too scared or too complacent to attempt. He has a crush on his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) and he yearns to experience adventures like the photographer (Sean Penn) whose amazing photos he curates. As the film begins, Life Magazine has been bought by a younger, digital publication and is about to close its doors. Mitty is charged with finding the photograph for the final issue’s cover, and this will send him on an adventure beyond even his wildest dreams.

The film comes at the right time, as the impending close of Life Magazine, transition to the digital age, and collateral job loss mirror current events. Audiences will easily relate to Mitty, a job “lifer” (pun intended) and average, family-loving guy. The film expertly inserts iconic magazine covers of historic events to invoke nostalgia in the characters and audience alike. But Mitty’s daydream sequences take the film a little off the rails. One particular super hero romp through the streets of Manhattan is over the top. Though the script was penned by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006), these outrageous comedy moments are firmly within Stiller’s wheelhouse and may turn off non-Stiller fans. But the heart of the film is in the right place and the colorful cast of characters keeps the story grounded. Once the daydreams stop and the actual adventures begin, audiences will be wooed by the amazing landscapes and escapades Mitty traverses to find the elusive photo.

The film is based on a short story by James Thurber that was published in The New Yorker in 1939. It was later made into a feature film starring Danny Kaye in 1947, produced by the legendary Samuel Goldwyn (the G in MGM). His son, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., and grandson, John Goldwyn, have brought this sequel to the screen. Overall, the film is beautiful and sweet, with loads of heart. The cinematography is breathtaking and the production design—particularly the use of Life covers—is awe-inspiring. The film is ultimately a search for inner strength and will be a delightful inspiration for audiences this holiday season.

Limité Rating: 5/5

Director: Ben Stiller

Screenwriter: Steve Conrad

Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn

Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox


TRT: 114 min.

Release: December 25

posted by: Stephanie Dawson
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