A better Stiller
Ambitious as it is restrained, Director/Star Ben Stiller’s loosely based interpretation of the famous short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” is a sweet trifle of a film and that rare enjoyable PG – rated product not necessarily directed at kids.
Stiller has directed before (1996’s dark comedy “The Cable Guy,” and 2008’s raunchy romp “Tropic Thunder,”) but with “Mitty” the veteran actor deftly melds his earnest everyday “Joe” niceness with a light comic touch producing a warm hearted film about being all you can be, taking chances, and how a misplaced photo will help you find yourself.
Straying from the source material, Walter Mitty (Stiller) is positioned as a single, shy archivist (perfectly costumed down to the short sleeve white dress shirt, pen-filled pocket, skinny tie and tie-tack) for a re-imagined “Life” magazine that here has been bought out by a dot.com company and will be downsized considerably. Transition executive Ted Hendricks (sharply villainous Adam Scott, sporting a ridiculous, well manicured beard) is firing those deemed unnecessary, including perhaps Walter who may have lost a precious negative taken by a legendary, intrepid photographer (Sean Penn) that is slated to be the magazine’s final cover.
To find the photo, Walter must travel to far off places like Afghanistan and Greenland and with the encouragement of secret crush, co-employee Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) Walter will have some thrilling, if a bit preposterous, adventures and perhaps retrieve not only the lost photograph but a new sense of self-confidence in the process.
This all may be harmless fluff, but the cinematography is often breathtaking, the comedy gently effective, all backed by a terrific soundtrack.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (screenplay penned by Steve Conrad of “The Pursuit of Happyness fame) is a genuinely optimistic crowd pleaser that is more than innocuously crafted. It is an artful, well executed family film that compliments Ben Stiller’s occasionally rocky film career and argues that he continue to pursue his directorial ambitions.
Rated PG (For some crude comments, language and action violence).