Right out of the chute, there’s a problem--and as usual, it’s a problem of expectation. When taken for what it is, Mitty is a sweet, wholesome family film and a clever rethinking of the James Thurber story: The movie is a winner, well worth the price of a ticket. However, when a studio starts murmuring Oscar under its breath, the game changes. Expectations change. And what was once a funny, feel-good movie becomes something else: It becomes a disappointment.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a cog in the wheel. He handles negative assets--photos, that is--at Life magazine. If you missed the double entendre don’t worry, they give you several opportunities to pick up on it. He is ambivalent and risk-averse, allowing his mind to often wander and invent a scenario where he behaves differently like standing up to the boss or getting the girl. When a revered photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), sends a film reel that is missing the prized shot, it becomes time for Walter to stop dreaming of an exciting life and actually live it.
There are a lot of positive things to say about this movie. It is touching and beautiful. That being said, it also is painfully predictable—my 16-year-old daughter whispered the big reveal to me 10 minutes into the movie. It also is not a film I would describe as well-acted. Ben Stiller is his usual pensive straight-man self and Kristin Wiig is utterly blasé as the object of his desire. Worse, they have zero chemistry together. Oscar staples Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine sparkle in small roles but it isn’t enough to elevate the entire film. In the end, it’s a feel-good, forgettable film. It’s a 6.