Image: Twentieth Century Fox
Walter Mitty’s life is mundane. He is a lowly negative assets manager for Life magazine and offers Ben Stiller, also director, a role outside of his usual comic roster. In Mitty’s day to day rat race and pay cheque lifestyle he frequents his own imagination, enabling him to escape the uniformity so many resort to in the urban landscape. The first, and most impressive, of the short time lapses used in the film involves Mitty gallantly leaping into a burning building to save the three legged dog owned by his co-worker, as well as his reliable love interest Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).
But, Mitty’s mundane life begins to change. The very real threat of online everything leaves Life magazine with only one final print issue. But it is Mitty’s responsibility to find the missing negative 25 that is to be the cover photo, apparently depicting the very ‘quintessence of life.’ It is here that the film you’ve forcedly kept yourself awake through for the last 40 minutes goes awol. Any comparison to Thurbers original 1939 short story ends. The action of the film now begins and Mitty’s reliance upon his imagination as entertainment dies.
Mitty travels to Iceland and Greenland, even the Himalayas and Afghanistan, hot on the tail of the photographer, Sean Penn (Sean O’Connell), who could have a clue for the whereabouts of the elusive negative 25. He takes on a shark and wins. He rides in a helicopter with a drunk pilot. He even escapes a volcanic eruption. Though this sounds exhausting to watch you can rely on Mitty’s monotonous character to rationalise and compose the scene. Sometimes this can be appreciated, such as when he is longboarding through the majestic Icelandic landscape. However, most of the time the forced pace Stiller imposes harks back to the dullness of the first third of the movie.
Though well intentioned, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty feels like two films in one. The first is rather mundane, even including Mitty’s imagined scenes, which suggest a narcissistic quality in the main character – something that’s never going to be likeable. The second is adventurous and more satisfying as Mitty eventually triumphs in finding negative 25. However, since he is essentially triumphing over his own dullness so even this is slightly underwhelming.