In addition to starring, Stiller also takes on directing duty, and does a mostly wonderful job of collaborating with writer Steven Conrad in adapting Thurber's classic tale of a man's yearning for more out of life.
A fantasy adventure with glimpses of comedy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is, in one word, pleasant. Envision a pyramid of qualities; the film's dreamlike sequences comfortably and rightfully sit atop its magnitude of highlights. With the lines between fantasy and reality often being blurred in Mitty's zoned out state of paralysis, he invites us into his crazy, hazy, even mazy lapses into daydreams of romanticism, adventure and pleasure.
Why are The Secret Life of Walter Mitty's fantasy sequences so successful? Because of their relation to our own imaginations: the things we wish we could say but don't; the places we wish we could go but won't. The film's fantasy references are inspired by popular movies such as The Matrix, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Harry Potter and pretty much every superhero film ever. This hilarious and creative approach to Mitty's fantasies offers an insightful look into how uninsightful our own imaginations can be, as they crave originality but settle for what has been imagined before.
Perhaps a slight disappointment to Mitty's on screen daydreams is their quantity. While Thurber's short story is dominated by the character's constant drift into his fantasy worlds, Stiller's adaptation favours reality and narrative over fantasy and themes. The film's aforementioned highlights are too few and far between throughout the 114 minute feature. Thus, it may have been Beneficial for Stiller to lengthen the film slightly in order to incorporate more of Mitty's fantasies, which would have better established his dissatisfaction with life.
Despite this, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty does have a story investing and intriguing enough for it not to be the film's demise. The secrecy behind negative 25 drives the film along, with love interest Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) also spurring Mitty on in the passenger's seat, inspiring the anxious and rigid dreamer to take his unpredictable ride and become the person he desires to be.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is refreshing in its lack of reliance on dialogue. Instead, the film's beautiful soundtrack and score, cinematography in exceptional landscapes and even the quietness of Mitty, tells us pretty much everything we need to know. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty consists of visual wonderment, with superbly selected and composed music to harmonise the scenery, complementing each other as they stroll hand in hand through Mitty's perfectly paced journey.
"Life is about courage and going into the unknown." If you fail to relate to Mitty's early illusory state, cautiousness and absence of courage, then you probably live a somewhat audacious lifestyle, in which case good for you! For the rest of us, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a relatable, pleasant and semi-inspirational modernisation of Thurber's story.
Just as the film's concluding third appears to have little payoff considering its memorable opening two, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wraps up with a revitalising, picture-perfect moment, fulfilling enough to make cinema-goers reconsider 2013's most impressive movies.
In spite of its imperfections in almost keeping Mitty's secret life somewhat of a secret from the audience at times, and preferencing the film's plot over his fantasies, this adaptation is nonetheless a satisfying, fun, visually and audibly pleasing present for the holiday season. Not even Walter Mitty would fantasise about battling you through the streets of Manhattan if you waited for The Secret Life of his on DVD or Netflix, but this delightful film is definitely worth the time and box office cost if you find yourself looking for inspiration for your own imagination.