Monday, October 20, 2014

Movie Week – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I’m a longtime fan of Ben Stiller.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when The Ben Stiller Show was released on dvd.  That was like the one show that really defined my sense of comedy. 

I haven’t been overly thrilled with Ben Stiller’s work in film.  More often than not Ben Stiller’s been playing variations of the same character for most of this millennium.  He hasn’t been a “must see” draw for me for a while. 

Still, I was interested in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. 

I was interested for a couple reasons.  Being that I enjoyed the late lamented Lost Roles column on Splitsider, I’d seen how many people have been attached to this remake over the years.  Honestly, the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was an almost mythical project in my mind.  So when I saw that a) it actually had a release date and b) it starred and was directed by Ben Stiller, I knew I’d have to see it. 

I’ve appreciated every film directed by Ben Stiller that I’ve seen and I definitely enjoy when Stiller detours away from broad comedy.  And based on that first trailer, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty seemed like the film for me. 

Having watched it I’d put it in the same category as The Cable Guy in terms of Ben Stiller helmed movies that were met with criminal indifference by audiences.  I really feel that this film should have made a bigger splash than it did. 

Don’t get me wrong; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t perfect.  It doesn’t quite nail the tone it’s going for.  It’s not quite sweet enough, nor is Walter pitiful or downtrodden enough.  His journey would have felt that much more powerful if either of those were true. 

But the Stiller does a great job directing a movie that $90 million, which is something I doubt even his biggest supporters would have guessed.  The scope of film is grand and Stiller delivers with every frame.  It looks wonderful and Stiller’s use of the wide shots to both place Mitty in a huge world and also make him look diminutive is expertly executed. 

Yeah, Adam Scott is cartoonishly over the top in his role as antagonist.  But on the other side of the coin, it’s pretty great to see Stiller turn in an understated performance.  Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn also turn in solid performances.  And the use of music was perfect.  I can’t recall a recent film that used music so effectively. 

I’m not saying that it deserved to rack up awards or even nominations, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty deserved better than it got.    

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