Friday, January 17, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Review

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is endearing and fascinating. It's a movie that celebrates life and the joys of living albeit with a touch of Hollywood-ic flair.

I loved everything about the film from a good acting job for the cast to the beautiful locales, the vibe and feel of the story, the music used throughout the various parts and the lessons that come along with the film locally distributed by 20th Century Fox. While I'm raving about it, it does hit a few snags here and there; but it still won't let you down.

Ben Stiller plays the titular character who 'zones out' aka daydreams about other lives and fantasies all the while working at LIFE Magazine as the 'negative assets manager'. Things change when the negative for Life Magazine's final issue gets lost and Walter takes it to himself to find the missing negative by tracking the photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn). All this while juggling family and heart problems. 

It's a bit ambitious and obviously is far from the original Thurber story and the 40s film adaptation where Mitty daydreams of being THE HERO. The hero that we all imagine, selfless and willing to lay down precious life for the good of others. Stiller's version plays to a different tune (I cannot help but think of Stiller's silly flute dance when I wrote that). THIS Mitty plays up to a more self-centered version. Yes self centered, self realization and self actualization. Still good.

Though the film doesn't have a "powerhouse cast", the actors and actresses chosen did a fine job. Sean Penn was awesome here. I have no tangible reason why, but his was the best and meatiest (if not shortest) role. Patton Oswald's appearance here was also a surprise. Stiller once again shows us that he can do exceptionally well in both comedic parts to more serious and dramatic turns. 

Visually arresting is how I would describe the film. Name it, they probably have it from gale force winds, dangerous seas, raging volcanoes, breathtaking Himalayan slopes. Had they added a rainforest or some tropical island this could have been mistaken for a Nat Geo movie and not a big Hollywood movie that positively glorifies the concept of YOLO (swag excluded). After seeing this, you'll most probably have this hankering to go on an out of town trip or go abroad. 

The story is excellent and brings forth a cathartic effect. It's one of those films that will make you reassess your life without having to go through the ringer of getting hurt by the things that happen to the lead character i.e. character deaths, plot twists. I like how the they change the Macguffins here; from the negative # 25 to Sean Penn's character to ending up a new person. Honestly though it's hard to imagine you'd go through lengths like that just to find something like a negative. It's also funny to realize that the whole "quintessence of life" can have a double meaning for the film. Applause.

Props to Theodore Shapiro who did the music for the film (which I assume including the picking of songs). It's upbeat as hell and with songs from bands like Of Men and Monsters and Arcade Fire to solo acts like David Bowie and Jose Gonzalez. 

If there's any gripe in this film, it's got to be product placement and endorsement. To date this is a film that can be a match to Vic Sotto's immensely lucrative and somewhat controversial "My Little Bossings" in the number of products shown.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty opens January 22 from 20th Century Fox through Warner Bros. Pictures.

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