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Movie review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn't worth the curiosity

movie-reviews Updated: Jan 03, 2014 14:23 IST
Durga M Sengupta
Durga M Sengupta
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Ben Stiller's directorial venture The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is based on James Thurber's classic short story by the same name. Attempted by different directors at different times, Stiller still manages to make it his own, say critics.

But that may not always be a good thing.

"Neither the spiritual insights nor the jokes always hit the mark, and sometimes one cancels out the other, giving the film a curiously neutral, blank quality. But Stiller's attempt to braid together introspection and humor kept me engaged and curious, even when I wasn't quite sure what he was setting out to do," writes Dana Stevens in Slate.

Mick LaSalle of SF Gate thinks the film is a bit self-consumed.

"If, while watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, you start wondering why Ben Stiller is acting strange, the answer comes during the closing credits: Directed by Ben Stiller"

"There is something within people that tempts us to film ourselves in moments of wistful contemplation. I say "people" and not just "filmmakers" because I suspect that if you gave most people a camera and a budget, they would do the same. We spend much of our lives inside our own heads. Why shouldn't we grasp the chance to show just how beautiful and sensitive we truly are?" LaSalle asks sarcastically.

Disappointing, Stiller.

Chris Nashwaty of Entertainment Weekly thinks Stiller the director might be a little better than Stiller the actor in this film.

"Stiller and screenwriter Steven Conrad have given Thurber's story a 21st-century twist by setting the film in our era of corporate downsizing."

However, "at the risk of psycho­analysing a film that's already too deep inside its own head, Stiller seems to lack the confidence as a dramatic actor to fully commit to the emotional potential of his story. Too often he aims at our funny bones when he should be targeting our heartstrings. In the end, Walter Mitty is a film about acting out our dreams. But Stiller never quite shows us the soul of his dreamer."

Yet there are some like Kenneth Turan of LA Times who liked his work.

"With Walter's real adventures paralleling his fantasies, opportunities for personal growth abound, and even though this inevitably leads to periodic marking of time, Stiller's sensibility creates a movie that's smarter than you think it will be. Kind of like Walter Mitty himself," writes a mildly surprised Turan.

So, is it worth a watch? Maybe for all the fantastic adventures Mitty sets out for. Because as Rotten Tomatoes writes, "It doesn't lack for ambition, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle."

Oh well.