I actually really like Ben Stiller. Most people think of him as a comedy guy, what with his filmography being littered with movies like Zoolander and Meet the Parents, but beyond that, he’s a pretty underrated dramatic actor in my opinion.
Many people were probably surprised by this movie in 2013 in that it isn’t an out and out comedy, per se. Yes, there are some comedic moments within it, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is more of a dramatic, life-affirming film than anyone expected. Stiller plays Walter, a newspaper photo editor who realises one day that he’s spent so much of his life daydreaming that he’s actually done nothing with it. On a whim, he embarks on a solo expedition to Europe despite never having left the United States before. The film documents exactly what he gets up to, and there are some weird and wonderful events that make Walter Mitty’s life truly worth living.
I’m not being funny, but this film truly convinced me that Ben Stiller is in love with Kristen Wiig. In real life. I’m not playing. But anyway, let me talk about the actual movie.
Many critics have a major gripe with the CGI in this film, but it really didn’t bother me all that much to be honest. Stiller proved to me with Walter Mitty that he’s really creative and inventive as a director (oh yeah, he directed it too); the use of overhead shots and the way one sequence transitions into another is really unique, and I loved the graphic art that is brilliantly interwoven to the moving action. His efforts really surpassed my expectations, and this is only proof that he’s not only an underrated actor, but an underrated director at the same time.
To be honest, I found it difficult to write the synopsis above, because the events of the movie don’t actually tell you what the movie’s about when on paper. So what is it about? It’s about living your best life! It’s about thinking less and doing more. The lessons of the film reinforce the idea of doing things now, while you can, before it’s too late. Explore. See the world. Adventure. It’s a nice message… Even if it’s not always as simple as that in the real world. But it’s inspiring and feel good nevertheless.
The cast do a decent job at portraying their characters, with Stiller carrying the weight of the movie on his shoulders. It’s Shirley MacLaine and Kathryn Hahn as his mother and sister respectively who stand out above the rest however. I’d watch an entire movie just about the two of them even though they get very little to do here. That’s a comedy duo made in heaven and you heard it here first.
Though the pacing is a bit off and the third act tended to drag a little, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is mostly a really sweet, kind-hearted movie. It’s unlikely that I’ll remember it in a few weeks time, but Stiller’s direction is admirable and it comes with some cute comedy as the cherry on top.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.
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Overall Rating: ½