Pin It
Favorite

Daydream Nation 

Ben Stiller turns a classic short story into a glorified commercial, albeit a visually stunning one

click to enlarge film1-1.jpg

Given how prone its namesake is to zoning out, perhaps it's not surprising that Ben Stiller's adaptation of James Thurber's beloved short story never manages to really connect. Then again, maybe this is just the price you pay when you try to force-feed viewers whimsy and rely on your soundtrack to do all of your heavy emotional lifting. (Why bother crafting scenes capable of inspiring elation courtesy of skillful writing when you can simply crank Arcade Fire's "Wake Up"?)

Granted, before it can begin its upward trajectory, the film must first familiarize us with the lonely existence of Walter Mitty (Stiller). In his compact, unadorned apartment, he diligently balances a checkbook before working up the nerve to message his coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) via eHarmony (the opening salvo in what will soon become an all-out barrage of product placement). That these efforts meet with an error message is hardly surprising. Walter just wasn't made for these times.

Arriving at the offices of Life where he toils in "negative asset management," Walter discovers that the venerable publication has been bought out and condemned to the most undignified of fates: going web-only. Adam Scott plays Ted, the delighted bearer of this bad news, having seemingly secured the role on the merits of his equally obnoxious turn in Step Brothers. Regrettably, he's given meager material to work with here, resulting in a character who's more bore than boor.

To this point, Walter has made a regular habit of breaking from reality in order to indulge in frenetically staged, CGI-heavy daydreams in which he rescues Cheryl's dog from a burning building or duels Ted in the streets. In turn, these flights of fancy have largely failed to impress, sapping the narrative of momentum while suggesting that the outwardly buttoned-down protagonist's supposedly rich inner world is little more than a sizzle reel of garish, noisy deleted scenes from summer blockbusters.

Tired of being emasculated by Ted and eager to impress Cheryl, Walter impulsively boards a flight to Greenland in hopes of tracking down acclaimed photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), who's believed to be in possession of the missing negative for Life's final cover. Could it be that hunting for the photo that's purportedly "the quintessence of life" means an epiphany is only a montage away? Is there any chance that self-actualization will take the form of something other than a middle-aged man's power fantasies? Unfortunately, the answer to the latter query becomes apparent as we witness the ridiculous sight of Walter fleeing an erupting volcano by speeding away on a skateboard.

"It's like Indiana Jones became the lead singer of The Strokes," Walter's eHarmony tech support rep-turned-long distance sidekick (Patton Oswalt) marvels. The declaration is cringe-inducing not so much for its datedness, but more because it seems to reveal a remarkable neediness on the part of Mitty's director-star that can only be sated by overt affirmations of his virility and hipness.

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention," O'Connell counsels Walter when their paths eventually cross. Likewise, films that clearly pride themselves on imparting universal truths shouldn't feel this self-serving. Nor should any film that wants to be taken seriously indulge in the sort of product placement that would leave 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy giddy and sees Papa John's not only serve as a (remarkably unfunny) running joke but also the root of great personal pain and lasting regret for Walter.

Alas, with its insipid adages, extreme wish-fulfillment and soundtrack, Walter Mitty frequently leaves you with the uncomfortable feeling that you're being lectured to by a glorified cola commercial. ♦

Trailer


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Rated PG · 114 minutes · 2013
Official Site: waltermittymovie.tumblr.com
Director: Ben Stiller
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Goldwyn, Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller, Gore Verbinski, Meyer Gottlieb and G. Mac Brown
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn, Patton Oswalt, Adrian Martinez and Olfur Olafsson

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Tags: , , ,

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Closing the Book
  • Closing the Book

    Peter Jackson bids farewell to his hobbits with one last, great movie
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • The One Who Knocks
  • The One Who Knocks

    Why an Australian indie called The Babadook became one of 2014's creepiest films
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Let My People Go Big
  • Let My People Go Big

    Exodus: Gods and Kings fails when it tries to humanize its spectacle
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Elton Jah Farewell Show and Xmas Bash

Elton Jah Farewell Show and Xmas Bash @ nYne

Sat., Dec. 20, 9 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Curtis Woloschuk

  • History Explodes
  • History Explodes

    Director Paul W.S. Anderson struggles with volcanic ancient Rome
    • Feb 20, 2014
  • Computer Love
  • Computer Love

    Spike Jonze captures our passion for technology in Her
    • Jan 9, 2014
  • Final Round
  • Final Round

    Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg round out their Brit-laugh trilogy in style
    • Aug 20, 2013
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Fresh Spin

    A local record shop is reincarnated under a new owner, giving this generation a taste of vinyl
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation