The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2014
A very pleasant movie that finds a nice balance between sincere drama and unexpected humor, even though it seems to have "for the masses" written all over it, with subtle moments coexisting in the same story with more obvious ones, which ends up diluting a bit the result.
Super Reviewer
½ November 23, 2014
Walter-ish stuff!! More or less watchable. More than less avoidable.
Super Reviewer
½ June 30, 2014
Enjoyable drama comedy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a well crafted film, that I felt was well acted and paced and Ben Stiller was terrific here, and he also directs. Although the film is a bit slow, the tone and story is quite good, and I was surprised at how good the film is. Ben Stiller does some fine work here, and he is more than able to craft something a bit more dramatic in tone than his previous works such as Tropic Thunder and Zoolander. The film is entertaining for what it is, and it's a film that really shows off Stiller's directorial talents. With that being said, I'm an anxious to see what he'll make next, as the film is engaging, well acted and directed. The film does have a few weaker moments that could have been improved upon, but for the most part, it's a film that is well worth your time if you're looking for an effective drama. What I enjoyed the most about the film was of course, Ben Stiller's performance, and I thought he handled the dramatic element perfectly, and he shows off his range as an actor, as he opts for a more serious affair than his usual output. I really enjoy Ben Stiller, loved most of his comedies, and it's always refreshing to me to see a comedic actor attempt something more serious, and it's always a treat when a genre actor like Ben Stiller who is more famous for comedies step out of his comfort zone, and attempt something quite different than what we are used to. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not a great movie, but it's still an accomplished drama for what it does, and with an actor like Stiller acting and directing, we get something quite good and unique as well.
Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2014
A feel-good film full of charm and joy. The narrative may not have much to offer, but your chest warms as the credits begin to roll.
Clintus M.
Super Reviewer
½ June 3, 2014
Stiller's Walter Mitty isn't so much about escapist daydreaming as it is an underdog fable about following your dream and nice guys finally finishing first. Mitty overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles in a quest for a photo negative, and in a much larger sense, a quest for recognition and redemption. As far as Stiller's directing and starring roles, I think I liked this one the most, although for sheer laughs Zoolander is hard to beat. This kind of role is becoming a signature of Stiller's: a downtrodden loveable loser who must overcome the odds to show the world he's up to the task.

The other actors are good, but not really outstanding. Kristen Wiig, as Stiller's love interest, is more than competent but it doesn't compare to her Bridesmaids role. She is light and natural: very likeable. There's also a villain, an over-the-top caricature played by Adam Scott-who was also great in Stepbrothers.

As others has stated, the cinematography is breathtaking and one of the highlights of the movie. If you've never wanted to visit Iceland prior to watching Walter Mitty, you will now. Even remote Afghanistan complete with a craggy-faced Sean Penn is appealing. Penn, by the way, owns his role as the reclusive photographer and key to Mitty's success.

One accurate adjective that describes this movie is tasteful. Stiller never stoops to sophomoric humor, and the action never takes any wrong turns. The film will seem disjointed if you're expecting a faithful version of Thurber's original story, but I wasn't. When it's over, you'll feel exhilarated and satisfied because some justice still exists. It may be a fable and probably unrealistic, but isn't this why most of us watch movies in the first place.
Super Reviewer
December 15, 2013
Solid story and beautifully shot. Aside from a couple nitpicks, overall I thought it was great! Love the ending.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2014
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.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2013
The product placement was distracting to say the least. The film is beautifully shot. Besides that it is pretty much the definition of mediocre.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
January 20, 2014
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
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2014
I am utterly flabbergasted that Ben Stiller and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" have been snubbed by nearly every awards-doling entity right for the Razzies! What?! What?!?! I daresay it's my favorite film of the year! It's got everything: a timely backdrop, idle fantasy, pop culture references, off-beat humor, impressive action sequences, generation gaps, sweet romance, indie music, the unconventional All-American family, a journey of self-actualization, uplifting redemption, and pure gold heart!

Very unlike James Thurber's pessimistic short story and Danny Kaye's 1947 adaptation, Ben Stiller's fantastic voyage is about a daydreaming, under appreciated worker bee at "LIFE" magazine who goes on a quest to find a missing photograph negative for the vaunted final cover. A trail of mysterious clues leads him on an exciting journey on which he discovers nature's majesty, long-lost soul-brothers of sorts, familial connection, a shot at romance, and a chance to prove himself as more than just another rat in the race.

The fantasy sequences are fun and thrilling, Adam Scott is appropriately douchey, Sean Penn is intimidating then playful, the settings are lush, the Scandinavian actors are captivating, Kristen Wiig is downright enchanting in her "Space Oddity" serenade, Steve Conrad's script is once again mellow but imaginative, and Ben Stiller is by turns stoic, exhilarated, and fairly badass as he longboards down to a volcano.

***MAJOR TOM SPOILERS*** (salute)
I really love the circular Ozian journey - finding out that inner strength or the object of the search was with him all along. I was afraid that the picture would remain a mystery - one of those annoyingly withholding open endings - but I'm so glad they showed it because it's beautiful and gratifying!
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2014
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," unlike it's original, is a very grand scaled film, and most of the time this upgrade works in it's favour, but there are some moments when the film feels a little disjointed from the material it is conveying, especially when the reason all of these things are happening is for such a small aspect of the story. Ben Stiller gives a fine performance as Walter Mitty, and his direction is definitely commendable, but having someone else direct would have probably made everyone else's performances better, because aside from Sean Penn and Kristen Wiig (who know how to act well), everyone seemed a little wooden on screen, but maybe that was just me. It's a solid attempt at a remake (better than most these days), and I definitely recommend this film if you are a fan of the original, or just love unique storytelling. Yes, it goes off the rails a bit here and there, but that is okay, because I still really enjoyed this film, taking all of that into account. It's a fun film for all ages surprisingly. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is nothing to write home about, or even be considered for awards, but it was a very nice update on an old story, that I will actually remember for a long time.
Super Reviewer
January 8, 2014
the reviews of this film have been starkly divided, and i can't understand for the life of me why that is. this film is wonderful. it's engaging, entertaining, hopeful, and moving. i usually hate overly optimistic films, going in for the more atmospheric, cynical, violent types, but that's only because optimistic films are usually retread and silly. this was not. i loved this film, its performances and locations and humor. a great film.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2014
Stylish and sweet Stiller movie is a cinematic delight.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2014
Ben Stiller's film is a love declaration to many things: the printed press, photography, and of course following your dreams. Cynics will find plenty of opportunities to shred the movie to pieces but everyone with their heart at the right spot might enjoy following Walter Mitty on his unlikely adventure. The tone of the film has little to do with Stiller's louder comedies, instead it has mostly a quit, quirky sense of humor, even a few rather serious notes while sometimes giving its scenes the time to slow down and breathe. That may seem a bit boring for an audience expecting a gad every ten seconds, but it also makes the laughs that do come so much more rewarding. The cinematography delivers beautiful, unforgettable images and the hunt for the lost negative keeps you guessing up until the pretty logical yet unexpected reveal. Stiller can rely on a good cast and his own character's flaws and virtues to have the audience in his corner. The result is a a lovable, sweet and funny film that should be treasured like the memory of a very special vacation.
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2014
A very charming and sweet film. Too many of the professional movie reviews have focused on the weak narrative when I think the story is just there to hold together the montage of beautiful sequences that unfold over the duration of the film. It's worth watching on the big screen for the cinematography alone.
Super Reviewer
½ January 2, 2014
'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'. Nothing but admiration for Stiller, despite the flawed script. Visually very creative, with beautiful backdrops aplenty. Whatever problems the script has, the romance angle works a treat, as does the sweet ending.
Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2013
This film takes on a huge amount of content, trying to cover a broad spectrum of emotions and moments in human relationships, but ultimately doesn't make a larger than life point. It's more a film about broadening horizons and trying new things instead of sitting around and daydreaming about them. Walter Mitty (Stiller) serves as a prime example of thinking and not doing, and though this is exemplified by huge, scary, important daydreams, there isn't a smooth transition into action. Walter Mitty lives in New York City, works for Life Magazine, and dwindles in obscurity when it comes to his romantic life. He is the most do-nothing person when it comes to his life, yet he is interesting and learned. Tasked with finding a lost slide from a famous photographer, Mitty travels the world searching for him. This transition is a little shaky, because we really never see the decision making process for Mitty, or even a flight of fancy without decision. When he starts going on adventures, he seems disaffected by what he experiences, though he travels to many countries, meets different people, and has a new path set in front of him. That is the main problem with this film, because we see such dissidence from society in the first half, and then a seamless transition into adventurer the next. Sure, he gets scared of the challenges that daunt him, because these are scary, natural elements. Sharks, mountains, warlords, and storms are all scary, but when he's alone with his thoughts, or speaking to Todd (Oswalt) from eHarmony, he's self-assured and confident. That's endearing in the last part of the film, but not right away, when he's newly experiencing everything at once. This film relies heavily on inescapably breathtaking visuals, kooky side characters, and a love of nostalgia. It's unclear exactly what Life Magazine's transition to online does for Mitty's evolution, other than to throw in that old is good and new is bad point. It's a lackluster point, because Mitty himself is throwing away old for new when he changes his life. Sean O'Connell (Penn) is also a loose end, because the challenge he presents isn't nuanced, his relationship with Mitty's mother is added cluelessly, and he presents no point other than to throw Mitty into a wild goose chase. The original short story, by James Thurber, was about a man settled down and domesticated, looking to what could have been. This film deals more with what you can change, and still do in your lifetime. It's never too late to try. That's a valid and selfless point but it's just not executed well with Stiller's performance. That and several instances seem insincere, especially when it comes to Mitty's relationships with his family, love interest, and co-workers. A beautiful film in itself, it doesn't develop the poignancy and social satire that one would hope for from such a resourced and impressive film.
Super Reviewer
December 3, 2013
Stop Dreaming Start Living.

Amazing Film!!! To the right person, this movie is life-changing, life-affirming, and truly beautiful. No, the narrative isn't perfect. The script isn't perfect. There are narrative flaws and stretches of the imagination, but this movie is about stretching the imagination. The visuals in this film were particularly fantastic. From the New York offices of LIFE all the way to Iceland. Every scene was perfectly captured and just beautiful. Ben Stiller is perfect as Walter Mitty. His performance was exactly what I wanted. Ben Stiller's performance was so engaging, a nice break from his usual slapstick roles. If you are hoping to see him doing one of his usual humorous roles, you will be disappointed. If you want to see him capturing the emotions of a man that has a hard time expressing himself, you will love this movie. Finally, the soundtrack. Every song fit perfectly with the tone of the film. There are a few scenes that stand out as particularly wonderful, and I'm sure you'll know what I mean once you see the movie. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is funny and beautiful.

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.
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