Ben Stiller is back, and how, with an unshakable character thriving to shape his life and the world around as one storm of cognizance—into the vast depths of reality, or perhaps—absurdity! Remaking the old comedy classic by the same name (1947)—itself based on the polarizing short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber, Ben Stiller gives this new version of Mitty an elegant visage; a monarchic grandeur, a hypodermic makeover—creating an ultimate inspirational jigger; a story for everybody, a life for seekers of thrills and absorbers of adventure: the spirit of Walter Mitty!
Living in his own world of fantasy, where he only accepts the biblical maxim of ABC—audacious, brace, creative; that’s Walter “ABC” Mitty, only too timid, shy, nostalgic, imaginative, and a subdued clone of the man that is Walter Mitty in his dreams. The story of one legendary man—similar to the everyday Joe—only this time, on the right end of the spectrum; Walter has all the time, the platform, and the “ghost cat,” at his surficial wigs of halo. It is just time that he discovers that halo. The halo arrives, big time, in the form of Sean O’Connell, played by the Icon—Sean Penn—a mythical photojournalist who, at last, proves his status as a living legend and not mythology. O’Connell, with the reputation that dwarfs in comparison to the man, and I mean this, is a longtime partner and comrade of LIFE magazine. Walter Mitty, his unduly associate—partner at work. For the very last edition of LIFE magazine before going online, Sean sends a film roll containing the special #25 for the final cover page of LIFE magazine. Somehow, sheer luck or distraught, it’s not there! With Ted “I’m lovin’ it” Hendricks (Adam Scott), Managing Director of the transition and downsizing, at his throat, Walter Mitty must find this final piece of jewel to celebrate the life and times of LIFE magazine. The stage is set for Walter Mitty—the calling of adventure, as they call it!
Ben Stiller, as Walter Mitty, is a natural. Serious, dreamy, zoned out, the ordinary guy, just a daydreamer; timid, frail, a New Yorker within New York, and a secret admirer, lover of the cutely wonderful Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), Ben Stiller raises the game as Walter Mitty and personifies his soul with this dreary human being daring to become immortal through his own vivacity and the underestimated power of imagination. Ben Stiller has it! As Walter Mitty, not only did Stiller direct a movie that designs the grandness of living your dreams, but portrayed a dud, with his trademark comic subtlety underlying his serious zeal for adventure and, what they call, a larger than life vocation, yet just a Negative Sales Manager. It was worth the wait, if that is the curiosity. Ben Stiller just slams it.
The spiritual enrichment of Mitty is arguably the best part of the story/screenplay. Arguable, perhaps not, because the crowned head of this visual magnum opus has to be—the one—Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, 1993) for the camerawork that justifies the benevolence of a movie as The Secret Life… The moving visuals were, hold your breath, breathtaking; entailing the spirit of Walter Mitty, the repressed one, and vindicating the motto of LIFE, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” Running from New York to the condescending Greenland to the eruptive Iceland, the camera illustrates the splendor of those beauty lands, but all important is the message written in each shot, each angle, each composition—stapled, you will find, the quintessence of Walter Mitty and his incredibly secret life that doesn’t confide to secrecy; it explodes out like the volcano in Iceland, and culminates into the Himalayas in the company of Ghost Cats. One only needs to dare to dream and to go beyond daring and live those dreams… Sharing the honor is Theodore Shapiro for the instrumental background score; engrossing and apt, perfect blend of melody, vocals, and the soulful injection of harmony.
At heart, Walter Mitty is just like every ordinary person—relatable in every way. Living life; dream on, go—live your dreams; we’ve heard those clichéd concepts buried to the ground and beaten until the core of the planet. Reality has a different story to share. In this case, it’s nothing about daring to live the dreams, but willing to reach to an extent for something, you justly believe in. Walter Mitty brings that contemplative moment. It addresses every day of life in this circle of stagnancy; been there, done that—in essence, have you, “been there, done that?” Taking this approach, Mitty isn’t preachy or philosophical about anything. Walter Mitty works for LIFE magazine, a monotonous job without change for 16 years, and now under the brink of uncertainty and the passion for the last picture from the iconic Sean O’Connell, this is Walter Mitty. The vivacious Cheryl instigates this coy, stale person to do whatever is necessary to do—whatever that needs to be done, but the real trigger is the guy called Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt), the eHarmony service provider, who acts as the kick-pad for Walter. On the negative—in terms of the pitch and story—the plot featuring Maher probably adds a degree of impracticality to the story. It can’t be all that convenient in Greenland, Iceland, and Afghanistan, can it now—especially from an eHarmony personnel?
The extremities of life typified by the typical Walter Mitty, this movie is an emotional and cinemascopic marvel featuring excellent performances, especially Ben Stiller, the officious Adam Scott, and the cheerful Kristen Wigg. Not to ignore Kathryn Hahn (as Odessa) and Shirley MacLaine (as Edna) for their complimentary parts in fulfilling Walter’s life and times as the Incredible Walter Mitty in a not-so-incredible world of New York, but the almighty ubiquitous pervasion of the world’s punctuation of life and Nature. Walter Mitty is for the emotional ones; maybe not entirely unique in presentation, yet a stunning effort from the vision of Ben Stiller and the lens of the cinematographer—truly world class cinematography and a tip of the hat to the direction and performance of Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty. What clicks is the emotion, and that’s the zenith of accomplishment for any movie; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty accomplishes that zing of emotional mix.