The Secret Life of Walter Mitty director Ben Stiller has truly evolved as a filmmaker. From his first film, Reality Bites, through his work on the under-appreciated The Cable Guy, there has always been a unique stamp that says, “This is a Stiller film.” That could not be more the case with his latest, in which he also stars, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
As shown in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty trailer, Stiller stars as Mitty, a man who toils in the basement photo offices of Life Magazine. Not satisfied with his own life, he escapes into daydreams that take on the most epic of proportions. Where he is too timid to talk to Kristen Wiig’s Cheryl Melhoff, we instead see Stiller as a Spanish speaking explorer busting through a wall and sweeping her off her feet. Meanwhile Mitty’s new boss (Adam Scott) sees his charge daydreaming and flicks a paper clip at him. Yeah, you can see how Walter is not altogether pleased with his current situation and who he has become as a human being.
His publication is going through changes, as the internet has essentially forced the mag's hand, and it is announced they will be producing their final issue. He is in charge of securing the final cover photo from their go-to award-winning photog, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). O’Connell has sent the photo, but it is missing. The photographer is one who criss-crosses the globe, so what’s Mitty to do? He does something he’s only done in his daydreams -- he takes off for an international adventure in search of O’Connell and the missing photograph that holds the key to his final statement as a worker at Life Magazine.
Although he has not always starred in his films that he directs, Stiller made the wise choice of casting himself in the title role. The actor creates such sympathy for him through the first part of the film that when he finally embarks on an adventure, the audience is so pulling for him, and his triumphs feel like ours. And Wiig is no wallflower, as she is (sometimes unknowingly) his confidant and someone who wills him on when roads seem to be filled with roadblocks in his epic search for O’Connell.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty support cast is top notch, with a particular standout arriving in the form of Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s mother, Edna, and Kathryn Hahn as his sister Odessa. And if there was a role that was custom made for Penn, it’s O’Connell. He is rugged, a renegade and an international man of mystery and Penn plays him perfectly.
Stiller painstakingly works on a look that is supremely unique in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Each shot is carefully crafted, giving the production design almost a supporting role all its own. The director filmed his epic journey on several continents and gave it a timeframe that feels like it could be any time and no time at the same time.
Our The Secret Life of Walter Mitty review finds that Stiller has done the original film starring Danny Kaye some serious justice with a heartfelt story about finding the strength within oneself where it seemed it never existed. The score is sweeping, and in fact, you could easily find yourself leaving the theater wanting a copy of the soundtrack -- if nothing else, to remind you of a journey that is possible.