NYFF 2013: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – Review by MovieManMenzel

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty not only reminded me of why I love film, but it also shows an audience just how amazing the imagination can be.

After seeing the first trailer for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I was extremely excited to see this film because even those who normally dislike Stiller have made mention that the film looked amazing. I was lucky enough to attend a very early screening of the film at the 2013 New York Film Festival. The film, which is one of the bigger films premiering at the festival is generating a lot of buzz and with a December 25th release date, there are already several thousands, if not millions of people anxiously waiting to see this film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is loosely based on the short story by James Thurber and is about a man named, yep you guessed it, Walter Mitty (). In the film, Walter works as a manager in the photo restoration department at LIFE Magazine. Walter is a guy who on the surface seems like he’s just drifting through life and isn’t all that interesting, but when it comes to his imagination, well that’s a completely different story. After working comfortably at Life Magazine for about 16 years, Walter learns that the magazine is closing their doors and moving completely to meet the needs of a digital age. It is Walter’s job to restore a film negative taken by a popular photographer, Sean O’ Connell (), who has sent all the negatives to Walter’s department. The fun begins where the specific negative goes missing and now Walter must go on a journey to find it before he loses his job.

Well, ladies and gentleman, I would be lying if I didn’t say that there is just something really special about the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is a film that not only captures the imagination and tells a great story, but it also manages to make a bunch of statements about life along the way. I don’t want to spoil anything but lets just say that their messages about how times are changing and how it is so important to dream and fulfill your creative aspirations.

I think the best part of Walter Mitty is simply this journey that we go on with him. Walter is not a character without flaws and as the film goes on you learn more about him and why he daydreams as much as he does. It is a film that takes you on a journey and it’s definitely a journey that is filled a mixture of elements including adventure, laughs, and even some dramatic moments. What makes this film really fun, however, is that while you as an audience member are along on this journey, its up to you to decipher what is real and what is a dream. In the beginning the film makes these scenes a bit more obvious, but as the film continues on it is really up to the audience to decide what is real and what is a dream.

I know that a lot of people give Ben Stiller a lot of crap for playing a very similar character over the years, but I feel unlike people like Adam Sandler, Stiller does try something here and there. I personally have always been a fan of Stiller, even though he has made some pretty bad career moves like The Watch and Little Fockers, but for the most part I like him as a comedic actor and like him even more as a director.

Stiller is truly as both a director and as the lead character Walter Mitty. There is just something about the way that Stiller plays this character that you are with him from the very beginning where he is debating on whether or not, he wants to send a wink to someone on eHarmony. Stiller is known for playing the likable guy, but in this film he’s definitely out there. The first few scenes of the film feature Walter as a guy, who just showcases very little emotion in the real world. His character is really complex and as the film goes on there is a lot of depth to his character and performance. I really dug it.

In terms of direction, there are two key elements to point out in this film that Stiller captured as a pro. The first is the landscapes of Iceland, Greenland, and New York City. There are some truly beautiful scenes while Mitty is traveling to Greenland and Iceland that really just make you want to pause the film and use the screen capture feature on your computer. It truly showcases how beautiful the world is and how it is seen through the eyes on this man.

The second thing to mention when it comes to Stiller’s direction is how he crafts the imagination sequences in the film. These scenes are great simply because they range from believable and humorous to absolutely absurd. There are several scenes in the elevator that stand out. There is one that features a Avengers like battle sequence between Walter and his new boss Ted () and another one where Stiller makes a comment about Ted’s beard while arguing with him in the elevator.

While the dream sequences were fun, the one that really spoke to me was a more serious one that involved ’s character Cheryl singing a song that is referenced a few times in the film. This scene really inspired Walter to push himself to go on this journey and find this missing negative. Speaking of Wiig, I absolutely adored her in this film. For those who don’t follow my reviews regularly, I hated Wiig in Bridesmaids and felt like she hasn’t done anything great since she left Saturday Night Life. As Cheryl, Wiig plays an oddball mother who works with Walter at LIFE magazine. She is a great love interest and I really did care about her as a character even though she wasn’t the biggest part of the film.  Her chemistry with Stiller was dead on and I really rooted for these two.

There were a few things about the film that I could complain about with the film such as the abundance of product place and how some of the jokes fall flat, but for the most part this is a creative film that made me remember why I watch films in the first place. As a film, Walter Mitty feels very modern yet at the same time has a nostalgia feel to it. There are several things showcased within the film’s story such a stretch Armstrong figure, different types of skateboards, and even, old film negatives, which we sadly don’t see much of anymore because of the digital switchover.

All in all, its nice to know that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be opening at the perfect time of year and will more than likely win over the hearts of young and old alike. This is a film that without a doubt will leave audiences feeling good as they exit the theater. It really is nice to a family type film that isn’t afraid to blur several genres together while still challenging its audience to use their imagination and have fun. This is a rare cinematic treat that makes anxiously await its mainstream release so I can see it again for a second time.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a 9 out of 10.

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