The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of those films that might make you feel a little bit lighter, or heavier, or taller or whatever it is that would make you feel good. Or it might really annoy you.
Despite a few unexplained plot leaps, and even with scenes where protagonist Walter Mitty (played to perfection by Ben Stiller) falls out of buildings, or suddenly speaks with a French-accent – this film is almost believable. The first two thirds of it, anyway.
And the premise is this: even the most ordinary, insignificant of us can still lead glorious lives and make a difference.
Walter Mitty is a negative assets manager at Life Magazine. He works in a darkened cavern of a room, surrounded by tens of thousands of unprocessed images and an overweight, teary eyed assistant. While great writers writing great stories, and great photographer taking great images work elsewhere in this iconic institution, we don't see them, because this film is not focussed on greatness in the traditional sense. It is focussed on the ordinary and what it can achieve.
Walter Mitty is not a new film (an earlier version was released in 1947), nor a new story. It was originally a short story by American writer James Thurber, and while the movie breaks away from the 1939 story, it still focuses on Mitty, a character so famous the phrase 'Mittyesque' has entered the lexicon as someone who spends more time daydreaming about being someone they are not, living a secret life as a person much more effectual than they are in reality.
The basic plot of the film is that Life Magazine has been taken over, and as people are being fired and assets are being relocated by the hilariously bearded Parks and Recreation actor Adam Scott, the final ever print copy of the magazine must be produced. Having worked closely with iconic Life photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) over his sixteen year career at Life, Mitty is sent the final roll of film by O'Connell, with instructions that image 25 should be used as the final cover.
Except Walter cannot find negative 25. The image which supposedly shows the 'quintessence' of Life magazine, has disappeared.
Breaking from his mundane, day-dream filled life Mitty then embarks on a trip across the globe to unearth O'Connell and find negative 25. It is during this trip that Mitty begins to emerge from his daydreaming, blank-eyed existence and actually do things.
Plot-wise, there are a few leaps of faith. Some you can overlook due to the general feel-good nature of the film, some will probably grate on you afterwards.
Be prepared for a few unanswered questions. Be prepared for a great soundtrack. Be prepared for Shirley MacLaine with absolutely no make-up.
With a great supporting cast including Kristen Wiig as the love interest and Patton Oswalt (the voice of Remy in Ratatouille) as the relentless eHarmony customer service representative this is an ambitious project for Stiller who not only stars but directs as well. It's the type of film you can take your mum to see.
One word of advice, don't read reviews that reveal the ending to this film. It's a good ending. You DO get to see negative 25. And it is quietly satisfying, even for the most mundane of us.