Review: 'Mitty' Stiller's strong dramatic turn
Marketed as Ben Stiller's bend toward drama, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” finds the actor, who also directed the feature, seemingly exuding super-human strength while jumping between buildings and battling his nemesis.
The lampoon-like scenarios seem far too fanciful when attempting to take Stiller seriously. But these are just the narratives the title character weaves in his mind. In reality, Walter Mitty, played by a poised and sincere Stiller, is an insecure photo editor with an affinity for daydreaming.
Adapted from a short story of the same name, which was written by James Thurber and was published in 1939 in The New Yorker, the outlandish scenes in “Mitty” bring the most memorable element of the original tale — reality bending — to the forefront.
Written by Steven Conrad, the contemporary rendition sees the real world altered with such wild inflection that it's hard to digest. Visual techniques like interspersing the text of the opening credits into Walter's surroundings, prove to be the most innovative and clever effect of the picture. Luckily, the CGI-marred moments flood only the first 30 minutes of the film, allowing for a loaded, inspiring experience familiar to other serious Conrad works like “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
In the new “Mitty,” Stiller's Walter works at Life magazine, which is transitioning from print to digital. A brilliantly vexing Adam Scott plays Ted Hendricks, the ringleader of a band of executives who've come to supervise the completion of the last issue and fire a large chunk of the magazine's staff.
Shirley MacLaine, who plays Stiller's mother, Edna, and Kathryn Hahn, who plays his sister, Odessa, are pleasant and supportive. It's Ted who acts as the villain. He takes to bullying Walter, who must pin down the negative image for the final issue's cover. Walter consistently spaces out, especially when he's fantasizing about his co-worker, Cheryl (played sweetly by Kristen Wiig).
Unable to locate the image, which was shot by a long-standing Life magazine photographer, Sean O'Connell (an explorer superbly pronounced by Sean Penn), Walter heads to Greenland where he hopes to find Sean and his coveted shot. Once there, Walter jumps out of a helicopter only to be nearly eaten by a shark when landing in the ocean. It's such a heart-pounding experience that even Walter wonders if what he just endured was real. But, alas, Walter's finally having actual adventures, as his capacity for taking risks increases.
As we watch Walter's world open up, we follow his journey across alluring locations like the Himalayas. When we finally meet Sean, who is perched on a mountain waiting for the perfect shot, he speaks to Walter's evolution as he tells him he sometimes prefers to savor his personal moments instead of being distracted by his camera.
Jessica Herndon is the AP film writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Going inside Big Bird, a film takes wing with Caroll Spinney
- Review: ‘Poltergeist’ solid remake of haunted house classic
- Review: ‘I Am Big Bird’ a gentle peek at the guy behind the yellow feathers
- Review: ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ a period-piece love quadrangle
- Review: Amazing Randi pulls back the curtain in ‘An Honest Liar’
- Review: New doc puts own ‘Lambert & Stamp’ on Who history
- Review: Tomorrow isn’t what it used to be in ‘Tomorrowland’
- Action, comedy, horror — Summer should be hot at the multiplex
- DVD reviews: ‘American Sniper,’ ‘Leviathan’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series’
- Orson Welles’ unfinished masterpiece to see light of day