The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt, Adrian Martinez and Sean Penn
screenplay by Steven Conrad
directed by Ben Stiller
Based on the 1939 short story by James Thurber, I thought The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ought to have been a hell of a lot better than it was. The concept was good but the execution wasn’t so good. Maybe Ben Stiller who starred in and directed it is the reason. Ben Stiller really bugs me. This is the second film adaptation of the story, the first being in 1947 with Danny Kaye playing mild mannered Walter Mitty.
Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.
Walter Mitty is a quiet guy working in the photo library of Life magazine. He secretly admires a woman in the company but is terrified of approaching her. Instead he often daydreams these really crazy, adventurous fantasies involving the girl. It’s the sort of thing that would look impressive on his internet dating profile: Adventure Man. Many times his co-workers catch him while he’s zoned out in these lucid daydreams and he is the butt of jokes.
Walter is saved by his closeness to an eccentric but hghly valued contributing photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), a globe-trotting free spirit. Sean sends Walter new photographs, one of which he claims is his best ever and he wants to see as the magazine’s final cover photo. Management is so in awe of the legendary Sean O’Connell that it endorses the picture sight unseen, without question. The problem is that Walter misplaced it. He sets about fending off management while he searches for it. Walter’s search takes him onto an airplane as he desperately tries to track down Sean O’Connell in the great big world. I began to wonder if Sean O’Connell was a real person. In his quest Walter ends up having exactly the kinds of adventures that he formerly daydreamed about. He lives like his hero, Sean O’Connell, and in the process he grows magnificently in confidence and charisma.
Walter eventually finds Sean in the Himalayas. He’s a mountain-dwelling photographer-yogi full of esoteric existential wisdom. And he plays soccer with the Sherpas.
Walter returns to New York. It turns out that he had the picture all the time but didn’t know it. While he thought O’Connell was being philosophically mysterious, O’Connell thought that he was just being mischievously clever and the whole movie was supposed to be a comedy of errors. My problem is that comedy of errors Ben Stiller style is too wacky and zany, like taking life lessons from Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis and Ben Stiller may be great comedians, but I don’t want to take life lessons from them.