The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), is a pretty average guy – a lonely workaholic for a dying publication, whose only job is to handle incredible photographs from other peoples’ adventures. Enclosed by his self-made isolation, he spends most of his time escaping into incredible fantasies. When it’s announced that Life magazine will be publishing its final issue, Walter discovers that he has lost the photo for the final cover. Walter takes it upon himself to find the elusive traveler to recover the lost negative, no matter where the journey may take him.
From what I’ve googled, this is hardly anything but inspired by the Thurber story, or the 1947 film starring Danny Kaye – and honestly, I’m okay with that. Perhaps a title change would have been in order, considering that he doesn’t refer to his stories as any sort of truth, but hey, I didn’t make the thing. Instead we get a story of a man who dreams of the impossible in order to rekindle with the extraordinary, bit by bit, taking some chances and having an adventure – first for love, then for obligation, then finally himself – realizing his fantasy world has only gotten in the way of his reality, as well as his potential.
I can’t help but take into consideration the constant backlash over Mitty‘s use of blatant product placement, and personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. Though various brands were mentioned casually, I think it’s fair to say that the biggest offender was Papa John’s. It’s not like the characters were talking about eating the pizza or discussing how delicious that garlic butter sauce is or anything – it was just the first place Walter worked at a young age, setting the stage for his corporate devotion. It wasn’t even positive product placement – in fact Papa John’s was more of a source of resentment, regardless of being a place of familiarity in a foreign environment. Besides, considering that this is a movie that begins and ends with big brands (i.e. Life), why stop at food? As if you didn’t know that a Cinnabon is just frosting-coated heroin.
It can also be argued that Walter as a character isn’t too identifiable. Unlike other characters of such caliber, Walter is not boring – he actually does have ideas and dreams and a family – he’s merely introverted. He’s the little guy, pinned against a corporate douchebag (a detestable Adam Scott) – an antagonist I only wish was entirely fictional. Personally, I think by making real-world references we can empathize with Mitty’s reality that much easier. This is a man who realizes the only thing holding him back is himself – and like the rest of us, all he needs is a little push.
Walter Mitty may be pining for Oscar-bait a tad, but ultimately this is a sweet little film: it’s stylish, sincere, funny, and at times, even inspiring.
Final Grade: A