The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller’s lack of belief in his audience is so immense that at one point he literally spells out the theme of the movie just to make sure everyone gets it. I do mean literally. He LITERALLY has words in the background of scenes telling the audience to grasp life. It could not have been more obvious what Stiller was attempting to get across if he had spoken directly to the camera. It is so heavy handed and derivative that it sinks under the weight of its own narcissism. Pure dreck with unbelievable performances and ridiculous coincidences. In its defense, I did like half of the opening credits.

Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a man so devoid of a life that he can’t fill out an eHarmony profile. He has a crush on a co-worker, but doesn’t have the courage to ask her out possibly due to his frequent daydreams that are so all-encompassing he literally freezes in place and zones out regardless of where he is or what he’s doing. Sometimes he zones out mid-sentence. At no point does he prove that he can adequately function in society or hold a job of any consequence. Mitty is a negative assets manager for Life magazine which means he is in charge of film negatives used in the magazine. A famous photographer has sent in a roll of film which will be used as the cover for the last ever issue of Life with specific instructions on which picture should be the cover. The only problem is the picture isn’t on the roll. Does Mitty immediately go to his bosses and tell them that the negative was never there? Of course not. Instead he treks across half the world looking for the photographer. Why? Because he needs to seize life of course.

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Tonally the movie is all over the place. Part satire, part self-help, part inspirational, part comedy (I guess). It even goes for the aw shucks ending that it doesn’t even remotely deserve. There is zero realism at any point in the film and it is some of the laziest screenwriting I’ve ever seen. In his quest to find the photographer that apparently lives in a forgotten age before cell phones Mitty must even climb a Himalayan mountain. Most people would train or at least prepare for a mountain climb, but does Mitty? No of course not, because he’s seizing life and all. Never mind the fact that the kind of life seizing he partakes in is far more likely to be life ending. He fends off a shark with a briefcase for god’s sake.

This is a gigantic misstep for Ben Stiller who is not generally a bad director or actor, but could have fooled me here. Screenwriter Steve Conrad deserves to be publicly flogged for this atrocity if for no other reason than his obvious doubts that an audience can have coherent thoughts or be aware of subtext. Every decision was bad at every turn and it would probably be best if this movie was put on the shelf and forgotten. Grade: D+

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