Opening

20% Transcendence Apr 18
53% Heaven Is for Real Apr 16
7% A Haunted House 2 Apr 18
89% Bears Apr 18
58% Fading Gigolo Apr 18

Top Box Office

89% Captain America: The Winter Soldier $41.3M
47% Rio 2 $39.3M
71% Oculus $12.0M
62% Draft Day $9.8M
77% Noah $7.6M
41% Divergent $7.4M
13% God's Not Dead $5.5M
92% The Grand Budapest Hotel $4.1M
79% Muppets Most Wanted $2.3M
78% Mr. Peabody & Sherman $1.9M

Coming Soon

45% The Other Woman Apr 25
—— Brick Mansions Apr 25
72% The Amazing Spider-Man 2 May 02
100% Neighbors May 09
—— Godzilla May 16

Premieres Tonight

—— Devious Maids: Season 2
50% Salem: Season 1

New Episodes Tonight

38% Believe: Season 1
83% The Bletchley Circle: Season 2
—— Californication: Season 7
83% Call the Midwife: Season 3
61% Crisis: Season 1
98% Game of Thrones: Season 4
100% The Good Wife: Season 5
86% Mad Men: Season 7
—— The Mentalist: Season 6
—— Mr. Selfridge: Season 2
—— Nurse Jackie: Season 6
71% Once Upon a Time: Season 3
100% Shameless: Season 04
48% Turn: Season 1
100% Veep: Season 3

Discuss Last Night's Shows

100% Da Vinci's Demons: Season 2
100% Orphan Black: Season 2

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

tomatometer

50

Average Rating: 6/10
Reviews Counted: 171
Fresh: 85 | Rotten: 86

It doesn't lack for ambition, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle.

43

Average Rating: 5.7/10
Critic Reviews: 35
Fresh: 15 | Rotten: 20

It doesn't lack for ambition, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle.

audience

74

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 61,594

My Rating

Movie Info

Ben Stiller directs and stars in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, James Thurber's classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined. (c) Fox

PG,

Drama, Action & Adventure, Comedy

Steve Conrad

Apr 15, 2014

$58.2M

20th Century Fox - Official Site External Icon

Watch It Now

Cast

ADVERTISEMENT

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.

All Critics (171) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (85) | Rotten (86) | DVD (1)

This is one of the more disappointing efforts of the holiday movie season.

January 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Richard Roeper.com
Richard Roeper.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Stiller's attempt to braid together introspection and humor kept me engaged and curious, even when I wasn't quite sure what he was setting out to do.

January 1, 2014 Full Review Source: Slate
Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Stiller's sensibility creates a movie that's smarter than you think it will be. Kind of like Walter Mitty himself.

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sometimes you see failed films and think, well, they tried for this or that but couldn't pull it off. After seeing Ben Stiller's version of the venerable James Thurber story, I don't know what the film was trying for.

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It has little narrative interest and requires that the director latch onto a very specific airy tone of whimsy, lest the whole souffle collapse.

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Painstakingly stylish, this is Stiller's most ambitious directorial work to date but also his most cloying.

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Somehow, out of a no-win situation, Stiller manages to make a likable movie that entertains and also provides a little get-out-of-the-basement inspiration.

April 19, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Mitty doodles and dawdles through the world, swept away by momentary bursts of special-effects fantasy while his life is changed by the presence of a cake made by his mother.

April 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity
Newcity

Big budget films that are actually about something are so rare this one's worth checking out just for novelty value alone.

February 13, 2014 Full Review Source: The Vine
The Vine

A charmer with a good heart and a healthy dose of unrealism.

February 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

It still has a good amount of heart to it, particularly from the delightful Wiig who somehow manages to create an interesting and empathetic character out of thin material.

February 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Dark Horizons
Dark Horizons

Of course Stiller takes many liberties with Thurber's old chestnut, but there is a sense that its theme of yearning really means something to him.

February 4, 2014 Full Review Source: SF Weekly
SF Weekly

...a superior comedy/drama that's often much more profound than its marketing materials may have indicated.

January 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Inspiring seize-the-day tale with some peril and flirting.

January 17, 2014 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a disappointment, an often confusing and silly contrivance of an unbecoming-of-age comedy based on Thurber's literary work (adapted into a 1947 vehicle for star Danny Kaye.)

January 9, 2014 Full Review Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Daily Herald (IL)

Walter Mitty has a big heart, and I like it for that. But this is definitely a case where a little simpler would have been a lot better overall.

January 9, 2014 Full Review Source: Aisle Seat
Aisle Seat

The remake is straightforward, with fewer secrets, more sentiment and it isn't as funny

January 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Impulse Gamer
Impulse Gamer

The cinematography is exceptional - if only the acting and script were on that level.

January 8, 2014 Full Review Source: jackiekcooper.com
jackiekcooper.com

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' is not the old James Thurber short story brought to the big screen. It's important to make that clear.

January 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)
Quad City Times (Davenport, IA)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a Mood Indigo for the masses, a sort of cinematic gateway drug that plays around with art film concepts for audiences who don't necessarily want to watch an art film.

January 7, 2014 Full Review Source: Crikey

Iceland deserves an apology: The utter phoniness here is disrespectful to the natural splendor of that island nation's locations, which provide the film with its only moments of distinction.

January 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Too often its easygoing charm is scuttled by strained efforts to be life-affirming and profound.

January 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinemalogue.com
Cinemalogue.com

By imposing carpe diem purpose on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - although no deeper than a Nike ad - Stiller turns Thurber's everyman into every man for himself. If you have a dream, get your own movie.

January 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Times

"MItty" a Magical Tribute to the Possible

January 6, 2014 Full Review Source: Illinois Times
Illinois Times

For Ben Stiller it's a case of one step forward, two steps back, with the funny man's ambitious move into Oscar territory never quite reaching its full potential, even though moments of brilliance do pop up now and again.

January 3, 2014 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Solid story and beautifully shot. Aside from a couple nitpicks, overall I thought it was great! Love the ending.
April 19, 2014
flutieman07

Super Reviewer

Like literally yelling "Carpe diem!" from the top of the highest mountain Ben Stiller's film is that most interesting creation, a film that aims to achieve its own subject (which is aiming to achieve!) while its in fact suggesting you do the same. Big on ideas, in reach, in aspirations, it is the equivalent of your mom cheering you on at the 8th grade spelling bee. There are some flaws, true, like the supporting cast could've been used more (Shirley MacLaine, f'cryinoutloud! ... though everyone does well) this one is one to revisit over and over again.
March 22, 2014
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

The product placement was distracting to say the least. The film is beautifully shot. Besides that it is pretty much the definition of mediocre.
March 22, 2014
Spencer Macklin

Super Reviewer

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based on James Thurber's short story, is a property that has long beguiled Hollywood. The idea of escaping one's ordinary life with fantasy, where we're the hero. It was turned into a 1947 film starring Danny Kaye, which is rather entertaining, but has yet to be remade in all that time. It's the kind of attractive roject that has attached big name talent at different stages of development, including Steven Spielberg and Jim Carrey. It was never able to get off the ground, that is, until Ben Stiller stepped in, not just as director but also as the lead actor. Given Stiller's directorial track record, there was suitable reason to anticipate what he could accomplish with Mitty, but the film too often feels like Stiller hamstrung, ably trying to marry a sincere indie sensibility to a mainstream sentimental holiday-released excursion for families. Stiller's Walter Mitty never quite takes off.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a man who has trouble filling out an online profile. He doesn't have too many experiences or places traveled. It may be why he frequently "zones out," as his family terms it, escaping into fantastical daydreams. In real life he works as a photography assistant for LIFE magazine, a publication that is transitioning to a digital-only existence. The enigmatic photographer Sean (Sean Penn) has sent a collection of film negatives to Walter, making special note of how Negative #25 is his life's masterpiece. However, Walter cannot find it and is having trouble getting in contact with Sean, who is overseas on assignment. Without that much-hyped negative/picture, Walter will surely be fired, and then he'll never have a chance to ask out his co-worker, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Walter sets out to Iceland and beyond to find the negative, stop daydreaming and finally live his life.

The very tone of the movie feels like a miscalculation. It's the story of a daydreamer, a man who retreats into his head and lives out preferable fantasies that are whimsical and far-fetched. We all knew this going into the film. It's the same as Thurber's story. The problem is that when Walter gets the courage to embrace life, his life is full of whimsical and far-fetched moments. He jumps out of a helicopter in shark-infested waters, where the sharks are ravenously active. He also hops into a car and has to outrun an oncoming ash cloud from an exploding volcano. And then in the third act, he travels across a mountain range all by himself and manages to miraculously find one guy. I don't think this approach works if his real-life adventures are on par with his whimsical fantasies. I suppose one could argue that this serves a point to make real life seem just as appealing as his mental retreats, but I think it harms the very execution of the movie. First, if there's a parallel, it means that his fantasy sequences aren't going to be too fantastic, squashing the potential of Walter's imagination. The only fantasy I enjoyed was a Man of Steel-esque brawl with a bearded Adam Scott (TV's Parks and Recreation). Secondly, it means that the serious "go get 'em" message of the movie is occurring within a medium that ordinary citizens have little connection with. Make no mistake, Walter Mitty is clearly meant as a mainstream feature meant to inspire the masses with its sentimental stripes, but is the story of a superhero doing super deeds any more relatable to the common man?

Another problem plaguing Mitty is the illusion of depth. Beyond the simplistic platitude of "get out and live your life," there really isn't much more of an idea explored here. It's not like this idea hasn't been explored in, oh, hundreds of other stories. Regardless, the film often just becomes a two-step process of Old Walter feeling timid, and then, what's this, the hip soundtrack with the likes of Arcade Fire and Of Monsters and Men starts pulsating, and Mitty boldly shifts into New Walter, the go-getter, the guy who's going to take charge of his own life. It's a strong soundtrack in all senses. This process is repeated throughout the second act of the script where most of Mitty's overseas journeys take place. Also, it may sound petty, but let's focus for a moment on the applicability of the movie's message compared to the practicality of what is onscreen. Live your life, but how many of us can afford to go globetrotting on a whim? I understand the larger canvas meant to evoke Mitty's growing sense of discovery, so I'll let it slide. The theme of Walter Mitty isn't so much developed as it is repeated. There's not enough substance here. In the end, the movie feels like 100 minutes of a soundtrack and a message in search of a better movie.

Allow me illustrate one of those "go out and live, Walt" moments in the film. Walter is in Greenland (though filmed in Iceland) and needs to get to a fishing vessel. The man next to him is a helicopter pilot. Great. But he's also drunk, so Walter understandably refuses to fly with the man. This seems like a very rationale decision, but then he fantasizes Cheryl coming through, urging him on through song (through song!), and the soundtrack starts pumping, and Walter runs out and literally jumps inside the ascending helicopter. It's meant to be portrayed as a triumphant moment of embracing the uncertainty of life's adventure, but in reality the movie just pressured its title character into getting into a flying vehicle with a drunken pilot. What? That's irresponsible.

And then there's just the lackluster characters and plotting. Walter Mitty is a nice enough guy but too milquetoast to be that appealing, relying upon the comic graces of Stiller to provide the filling. The character of Walter is basically a hodgepodge of other Stiller characters in previous movies, but the character feels too restrained for an actor of Stiller's talent. I understand that the arc has to travel from passive to active, but it feels like the funny Stiller we're all accustomed to is being held in check thanks to the film's broad appeal feel-good sentimentality. There's one brief moment of the anarchic, silly Stiller that we loved so much in Tropic Thunder, and it involves a weird fantasy where Walter suffers the reverse-aging Benjamin Button disorder. It doesn't fit at all with the tone of the film, and that's why it stands out. Walter is a nice guy but rather boring. He pins his journey of self-discovery on getting the girl, and then when presented with one minor obstacle at the start of Act Three, rather than speak with her, he assumes the worst and just gives up. The narrative requires one of those eleventh-hour misunderstandings to keep the guy and girl apart, but it's a frustrating decision that makes me like Walter less.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is also filled with blunt product placement and some strange plot elements that don't seem to blend together. I'm not generally offended by product placement in movies when they make it oblivious; hey, a character has to drink something so why not a (insert product here)? But the fact that the Walter Mitty team actually makes Water's teenage stint at Papa John's a reveal about his character, and that the very store is meant to stand in as a reminder of his own deceased father, is just wrong. Then there's the fact that Walter works as a negative corrector (analog job) at a magazine (troubled industry), and that magazine happens to be LIFE (who shuttered in 2000). Why all the analog contexts? Is it meant to convey Walter's reluctance to change or adapt? The whole notion of the magazine downsizing gives the film a real-life aspect that just doesn't feel appropriate for the movie. The fact that Walter's journey is propelled by a quest for a single missing negative feels a tad too facile for the man's transformation, but it's made worse when the answer to the location of the negative is so transparently obvious from the get-go. It was so obvious I almost talked myself out of it. Most of the supporting characters in the film serve little effect on any of the events. They're there just to provide minor details about Walter and that's it.

The movie is so earnest and you can tell Stiller is trying hard, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ends up being a disappointing feel-good message lacking substance and much entertainment. The filmmakers have conviction, I'll give them that, but it's misplaced, and the film's tone has too many distracting elements. The fact that real life mirrors Walter's fantasy visions seems like a miscalculation from the start. Thurber's short story didn't have that much to it to begin with but we need more than this, an office schlub learning to live his life through improbable adventures meant to inspire the rest of us common folk. As a slice of escapist entertainment, it's not fanciful enough, not creative enough, and not funny enough. As a motivational, heart-tugging ode to living one's life, it falls into too many traps to feel applicable, insightful, or engaging. It looks beautiful and the people behind the film obviously mean well, but good intentions and nice camerawork are not the same as an effective movie built from the ground up, namely the lackluster story and characters. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty feels like it has as much depth as a glossy, idealistic commercial, and perhaps for some this will suffice, but I found this Walter Mitty's secret life not worth investigating.

Nate's Grade: C
January 20, 2014
boxman
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

    1. Sean O'Connell: Beautiful things don't ask for attention.
    – Submitted by Solomon H (23 days ago)
    1. Sean O'Connell: Beautiful things don't ask for attention.
    – Submitted by Solomon H (23 days ago)
    1. Sean O'Connell: Sometimes I don't. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
    2. Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
    3. Sean O'Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
    – Submitted by Laurice Nicole V (23 days ago)
    1. Cheryl Melhoff: Strong little man. Walter thanks. No that's what the phrase means.
    – Submitted by Melody B (2 months ago)
    1. Walter Mitty: To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.
    – Submitted by Igor M (2 months ago)
    1. Cheryl Melhoff: Life is about courage and going into the unknown.
    – Submitted by Igor M (2 months ago)
View all quotes (11)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty on our Movie forum!

What's Hot On RT

Critics Consensus
Critics Consensus

Transcendence is a Sci-Fi Snooze

Total Recall
Total Recall

Johnny Depp's Best Movies

24 Frames
24 Frames

Picture gallery of movie bears

Good Friday
Good Friday

50 movie posters gallery

Summer Movies
Summer Movies

10 most anticipated blockbusters

Latest News on The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

April 18, 2014:
Parental Guidance: Bears, Transcendence, Plus The Nut Job and more
This week, Christy breaks down the Disney true life adventure Bears, the sci-fi thriller...
April 15, 2014:
RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Walter Mitty, Ride Along, and More
This week on home video, we've got an ambitious project from Ben Stiller, a small Oscar-nominated...
April 2, 2014:
Now Streaming: Ride Along and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This week in new streaming video, we've got a Kevin Hart-Ice Cube comedy, an imaginative short story...

Foreign Titles

  • Das erstaunliche Leben des Walter Mitty (DE)
  • La Vie rźvée de Walter Mitty (FR)
Find us on:                 
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile