Running Time: 114 mins
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott
Director: Ben Stiller
Release Date: 26 December 2013
Walter Mitty is a man who frequently drifts between his dull reality and his super-imagination in which he saves dogs from burning buildings and performs a host of other equally mock-heroic acts. In this action-packed, feel-good film, Mitty’s imagination flies from one unlikely situation to another so much so that at times it is difficult even for Mitty himself to distinguish his fantasy from his reality.
Mitty is a negative assets manager at Life magazine whose last print issue has been commissioned in light of its virtual takeover, headed by Ted Hendricks (Scott), who gives a marvellous portrayal of the ruthless executive. The film centres round a missing photograph, negative 25, which is planned to be used on the cover of the magazine’s final issue. Since provided by the wonderfully illusive photographer, Sean O’Connell (Penn), Mitty is spurned onto a journey of discovery for the lost picture that in turn, perhaps unsurprisingly, becomes a journey of self-discovery.
It is sometimes found that directors starring in their own films lack the necessary distance to make informed, detached observations of their work. Had Stiller not been directing himself he may have become aware of his character’s striking similarity to several others he has played over the years. Gradually he is type-casting himself as the slightly-pitiful male deprived of appreciation, which makes it difficult for the audience to form an emotional connection with this character. In a film such as this, this relationship is essential for its success, thus Stiller’s characterisation (or lack of) is unfortunate for it immediately disadvantages the production.
The romantic sub-plot between Mitty and Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig), his co-worker, was remarkably ordinary. It was refreshingly underplayed for so often in these kinds of films there is a grand, unbelievable, ‘love’ that drains the plot of its realism and credibility. Although some events surrounding their courtship are wildly fashioned in Mitty’s imagination the reality of the relationship itself is concrete.
The adventures Mitty imagines (although some of which we realise are real) relieve the predictability of a film without which would be another romantic comedy come adventure film lacking in substance. A spoof scene of Benjamin Button was particularly memorable yet even these comical moments appeared misplaced, even forced sometimes. It is sad to say that the best moments seem to be showcased in the trailer though the continual reappearance of Todd, who works for the online dating website, was always welcome.
The ambition with this film was evident yet, although mildly entertaining, it fell short of reaching its potential.