Too much of this, not much of that: Review of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Director: Ben Stiller
Screenplay: Steve Conrad
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty confuses visual spectacle with substance and depth. And it was a grave mistake.

The movie chronicles the story of a lowly employee (Ben Stiller) who suffers from too much daydreaming. He was presented with various dilemmas at the start of the film: the magazine he works for will release its last print issue, he has a crush on his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) and his officemate (Sean Penn), who takes photos of the magazine’s cover page, has gone missing.

To cut the long story short, things went messy. That is, for Stiller’s character and for the movie itself.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty thinks it can get away with playing scene after scene of visual spectacle without backing it up with substance or reason. It would have worked if there’s a logical excuse to play such sequences.

But there’s none.

The movie’s storytelling was uneven and all over the place (not to mention that it lacked the heart that could have brought it closer to the audience). It drifts and drifts but reaches nowhere. No trace of humanity or emotion was seen nor felt. There were only missed opportunities, followed by fleeting moments of dissatisfaction. There’s practically nothing more.

It is regretful how The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has treated its actors; the movie squandered the talents of its two lead stars and relied heavily on their charms, not on their capabilities, which, a lot of times did not work out. (Sidenote: believe me, I basically worship Kristen Wiig since she appeared on SNL so I know what I’m talking about).

Stiller, being the director and lead star, could have done something to salvage the movie. But he, too, wasted his opportunities. His directorship offered nothing but half-baked techniques and his performance is a little too underwhelming. Whereas Stiller’s character has considerable depth, Stiller the actor only has little to none.

The movie’s saving grace is its soundtrack and Sean Penn’s performance as an engrossed photographer, which, by the way, is so short it would pass for a cameo appearance.

Proceed with the movie if you must, be it due to the deceptive trailer or sheer curiosity, but consider yourself warned.