As an advert for visit Iceland The Secret Life of Walter Mitty worked really well, beyond that I’m not sure what they were trying to sell me on. Before I saw this I had been promised something epic. Now in my book ‘epic’ doesn’t usually mean throw in every genre you can think of and the kitchen sink for good measure, but if that’s what people are calling ‘epic’ these days then I can certainly get on board. That said, the film was not as bad as I was expecting, the trailer of Ben Stiller skateboarding, arms held high promised something far more vomit inducingly ‘profound’ than what we got. The truth was that the message wasn’t hammered home so much as non-existent and I left without being any the wiser to what it is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was meant to say.
Walter Mitty works in the photo negative department at Life magazine which is in the throes of closing its doors forever. For the last issue, Sean O’Connell claims to have sent Life magazine his best ever photo, one which really sums up the quintessence of life. By the time the negatives fall into the hands of Walter Mitty however, the photograph in question is missing. Without too much encouragement it seems, Mitty pops of to first Iceland, and then the Afghanistan Himalayas in search of Sean O’Connell and the missing photograph. Prior to these adventures, Mitty has a tendency to ‘zone out’ and fantasise about himself as a man of action, who has been places and done things of note, strangely as soon as he ventures to these exciting places, and does things worthy of note these fantasies begin to cease.
But this idea of getting out into the big wide world and having adventures is not persistent, nor does it seem to be the overriding message of the film. Mitty took a total of two trips during the film, fair enough one was pretty epic, but he couldn’t have been away for longer than two weeks, and didn’t seem to be left with the desire for more. In the end he came home to get the girl, wonderfully played by Kristen Wiig, and looked to find himself a new job.
From the man behind Zoolander many people would have expected Ben Stiller, who was in front of and behind the camera for this, to create a comedy in the same vein; instead Stiller keeps the humour to a bare minimum in what could have a distinctly more light-hearted story. Still, he gives the role of Mitty a pretty good; as neither a typical leading man nor the funny man we’ve come to expect of him but just a solid ordinary guy who needs to get out of the house a bit more.
The film is fine and it does have some wonderful scenery in it. It is just so scrambled with conflicting messages and directions that nothing stuck and nothing made an emotional connection. In the end it felt like a ridiculously over budgeted travel advert, yes it made me want to go to Iceland, but not because I connected with the story so much that I was inspired to start living. Just because I thought it looked nice.