The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The second film version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty uses the James Thurber short story as a mere jumping off point (even more so than did the 1947 Danny Kaye movie). This time, Ben Stiller (who also directs) plays the titular milquetoast who escapes his anonymous worker-drone existence by disappearing into daydreams where he lives out heroic fantasies. Stiller overstuffs his big budget film with visual style, pop-psychology, and special effects, but can’t find a tone for the story that makes sense. I think it’s a whimsically introspective tale that is meant to engender some kind of melancholy appreciation for older, better times, but the carpe diem theme of the film seems to make the opposite point. Stiller’s Mitty is such an odd hybrid of extreme passivity and unbelievable proactivity that it’s impossible to relate to the character as either a human being or a cypher for intellectual concepts. Wonderful little details populate the picture, but clichés, broad comic tropes, and underdeveloped characters overshadow them. Stiller is clearly aiming for a profound, arty, Oscar-worthy movie so audience and the film industry will take him more seriously, but this film is all spectacle and no substance. 

Directed by Ben Stiller
Produced by John Goldwyn, Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld, and Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Screenplay by Steve Conrad
Screen Story by Steve Conrad
Based on the short story by James Thurber

With: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jon Daly, Terence Bernie Hine, Adrian Martinez, Kai Lennox, Conan O'Brien, and Andy Richter

Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Editing: Greg Hayden
Music: Theodore Shapiro

Runtime: 114 min
Release Date: 25 December 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1