“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is the type of feel-good movie that can be hard to find at the multiplex these days.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a particularly good movie.
Very loosely based on James Thurber’s famous 1939 New Yorker short story, “Walter Mitty” is cute and good-natured but also insubstantial, and almost painfully predictable.
Director Ben Stiller also stars as the title character, a shy, awkward worker bee who toils in the basement at Life Magazine.
Walter can’t summon the courage to stand up for himself or approach the cute newcomer at the office, so he escapes from his humdrum existence with wild daydreams, often at the most inopportune times.
His life is shaken up when a corporate raider (Adam Scott with a bizarre beard, possibly stolen from Dwight’s cousin Mose on “The Office”?) comes in to close the magazine.
Legendary photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) has sent in what he believes is the perfect image for the final cover of the famous magazine. One problem: Walter can’t locate the negative, and O’Connell doesn’t have a phone or a forwarding address.
Walter’s only clues are a few images from the same roll of film, and eventually those clues send him on an adventure surpassing his daydreams, taking him from Greenland to Afghanistan and involving sharks, skateboards, volcanoes and helicopters.
Kristen Wiig is good as Walter’s love interest, and Stiller makes a believable everyman. Kathryn Hahn plays Walter’s ditsy sister and Shirley MacLaine is his piano-loving mom. Patton Oswalt is on hand as a dedicated eHarmony worker — it should be noted that the movie features quite possibly the most blatant product placement of the year.
Visually, “Walter Mitty” is excellent, and the setup isn’t bad. Overall, though, it’s bland. It’s only sporadically amusing — the funniest bit is a “Benjamin Button” parody that is wildly out of place —and the solution to the mystery of the missing negative will be painfully obvious to many in the audience.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” isn’t a nightmare, but it’s not the movie of your dreams either.
Rental Recommendation: No movie deals with dreams more inventively than “Inception.” Grade: A.
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"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn.
Rated: PG-13 (for some crude comments, language and action violence).
Running time: 114 minutes.