Ben Stiller has potential as a director, as he has shown through comedy gems like Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. Yet his latest, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, lacks enough of a driving force to propel its limp narrative past its cutesy premise. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a lovable loser who works at LIFE magazine as a photo processor but has never made the most of his own life; oh, the irony. Walter likes Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) a lot but cannot seem to impress her. He’s always stuck in his day dreams, hoping for a grander life but living one that is bland and fundamentally sad. His loneliness drives him to go on an adventure to find Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), a famous photographer who submitted a photo essay for the last issue of LIFE but left out the one supposed to be used for the cover. Penn doesn’t appear on screen until late in the film, and he attempts to save the film, but the movie’s fairly uninteresting actions lead to a dull middle hour. This is an interesting but simplistic story, and I feel like its message of living life to the fullest is important, but something we’ve heard before. I like the film in theory, and find its screwball elements to be its finest moments, but otherwise it’s a trivial film.
Grade: ★★½ (out of 5)