Say whaaaat? How did I see this so soon? I was enticed by the mystery of Cineworld’s “Secret Screening” event for Unlimited Card holders and we went along to see it a month before its release. Not that Cineworld made a secret of its special relationship with the movie, having sat through the 10 minute trailer several times – why do we need an introduction to the trailer we are about to see?? Anyway, I thought “What the hell, plus there’s free chocolate” (which I should NOT be eating this late at night). So here I am, justifying that chocolate by dispensing my wisdom.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” having suffered several years of development hell, is based on a 1939 short story by James Thurber, and it presumably something I should have heard of by now, but I’m just a philistine. Sorry! The titular character (Ben Stiller) has sleepwalked (slept-walked?) through a 16-year career at Life Magazine in charge of its artwork negatives.
With the magazine folding – they need a new verb for when magazines close down – famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) trusts him with the negative for the final cover. Except it’s not there, and Sean is notoriously difficult to track down, spending most of his life on the move.
Meanwhile, Walter’s personal life is featureless and empty, with teenage trauma snuffing out his spirit of adventure. In order to make himself the sort of person that love interest Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) might take notice of, he sets off to track down Sean and the negative in a journey that takes him to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas.
If you’d seen the trailer you’ve probably got a measure for this one already, and if you’re prepared to buy into this type of movie. Personally I’m a bit of a eye-roller at inspirational stuff like this, but all in all I’d grudgingly give it a thumbs-up. Ben Stiller directed, which I suppose is why so many shots were him Blue-Steeling over the cameraman’s shoulder. He needs to eat a cheeseburger or something, why does he look so thin and reptilian these days, is it Botox?
The supporting cast were… well aside from Kristen Wiig and a bit of moral guidance from Walter’s mother (Shirley Maclaine), the rest didn’t really get a chance to do anything of note – aside from Adam Scott’s preposterous beard and comic book bad-guy demeanour. Kristen was likeable and warm as ever, and may have stolen some scenes if it hadn’t been made abundantly clear that this was Ben’s film.
Why do my film reviews always sound so negative? I guess it’s easier to be specific if you’re criticising. I mean I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to everyone, I think watching the trailer is my best advice. But it certainly wasn’t a bad film, nor did it drag. Not least because of Walter’s Ally McBeal-esque breaks from reality, where he zones out and lets his imagination do all the exciting stuff he’d never do.
I never understood how you can direct yourself, how does it work? Anyway, the locations were pretty gorgeous. I already knew Iceland was beautiful, Greenland was similarly picturesque. I think if anything, those big cinematic landscape shots were worth seeing, even if the soundtrack laid in on a bit thick with the “THIS IS A MAGIC MOMENT, WRITE ABOUT IT IN YOUR JOURNAL”. Like I said, I’m perhaps too much of an eye-roller for this sort of film.
I guess there’s a market for these post-Christmas types of movies, like “Life of Pi“. If anything it LOOKED good. I mean I don’t think this was as good as “Life of Pi” really, but there are things that remind me of it, including the same sort of slightly-smug tone about going on implausible journeys and improving your soul etc etc.
Maybe Ben Stiller wasn’t the best pick for the lead, though I imagine people like Steve Carrell would have played exactly the same sort little-boy-lost schtick here. You sort of want to root for him, but what he wants seems to come very easily, and at the end he’s turning into those people who go on gap years and won’t shut up about them.
Anyway, yeah, just watch the trailer and don’t listen to me, that will do you more good than I will.