One of those swoony American dramas that explores life in all its wondrousness, this film will quickly annoy more cynical viewers. But others will find it a warmly inspirational story about breaking out of our dull routines to live life fully. It's gorgeously shot and edited, but a rougher edge might have made it easier to identify with.
Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a daydreamer who manages photographic negatives at Life magazine. Not only is his job deeply redundant in the age of digital photography, but Life is in the process of being downsized by a corporate henchman (Scott). And as they prepare the last print edition, Walter is in trouble because he can't locate an important negative sent to him by an old-school photographer (Penn). So he turns to Cheryl (Wiig), a colleague he secretly has a crush on, for help. And he finally gets the courage to make his dream to see the world a reality as he travels to remote Greenland and beyond to find the photographer.
The film takes the time to set up Walter's fantasy life with superbly rendered effects sequences before sending him out into the real world. So we really feel the weight of these new experiences for Walter. And as a director, Stiller shamelessly punches every emotional note with vivid photography, surging music and wide-eyed performances. The problem is that the characters are never much more than cartoons, defined by one or two key traits. At least the actors all do the best they can to add resonant details.
But nothing is remotely subtle here (honestly, Walter handles "negatives" at "Life" magazine!), so there isn't much for us to discover on our own as the story progresses. It's all so relentlessly, forcefully inspiring that we end up feeling very little in the way of real emotion. We all know that we should seize every day, but few of us have the resources to hire a helicopter to fly us to Iceland or the Himalayas. So the film ends up feeling contrived and more than a little pushy. But at least it also makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Run time: 114 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 25th December 2013
Box Office USA: $58.2M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Red Hour Films, TSG Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 89 Rotten: 88
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Ben Stiller
Screenwriter: Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty, Kristen Wiig as Cheryl Melhoff, Patton Oswalt as Todd Maher, Shirley MacLaine as Edna Mitty, Adam Scott as Ted Hendricks, Kathryn Hahn as Odessa Mitty, Sean Penn as Sean O'Connell, Terence Bernie Hines as Gary Mannheim, Gurdeep Singh as Cab Driver, Alex Anfanger as Ted's Toner Box Associate, Gary Wilmes as Walter's Dad, Adrian Martinez as Hernando
Also starring: Stuart Cornfeld