‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ approachable for all audiences January 4, 2014 • Patrick White
Ben Stiller brings to the screen his fifth directorial feature “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” an adaptation that explores the awkwardness of life, how a person’s individuality can change with one simple leap, and the nature of our own human imagination. Stiller’s film is not a comedy, but rather a story told within our own reality. If humor accompanies this reality then so be it.
Walter Mitty escapes from reality with his active imagination, imagining a world where he does what he wants by standing up for himself and reaching out for the unknown. Mitty, an employee of Life magazine, embraces a new reality when he is given an opportunity to search for elusive photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) after a fated 25th frame is missing from O’Connell’s negative. The film is loosely based on James Thurber’s classic short story.
Ignore the middling Rotten Tomatoes score and the negative backlash from national critics because “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a rare departure for a growing director. The film starts off by exploring the awkward nature of humanity and at times moves slowly, but I think this was a personal choice by Stiller.
This awkwardness creates a great contrast when Mitty throws himself into an epic fight against his boss (Adam Scott) showing the ridiculous nature of our imaginations. Standing up for ourselves in our heads is one thing; having a “Matrix” style face off is another. Stiller encourages his audience to find a happy medium between being an awkward shut-in and a fantastical super being. There are adventures at our fingertips, we just have to be brave enough to reach out.
The best aspect of this film is that it’s completely approachable by any audience considering it carries a PG rating. If you’re sick of the blatant sexuality, language and bloody violence in cinemas today then this is exactly the film you’ve been waiting for. The film focuses on Mitty’s adventures and never uses taboo subject matter to push the boundaries. Instead Stiller delivers an entirely approachable adventure film within reality.
By the end Mitty’s daydreaming is lost to day-living in the form of an international adventure, a lovely relationship with his co-worker (Kristen Wiig), and the chance to prove that he has a role larger than being an awkward shut-in.