The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty: No One Knows What It’s Like To Be A Sad Man
You are not supposed to go into a flick like Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — an ode to the imagination, and to courage, and to being a man — nitpicking. Maybe I was hangry! Possibly I was PMSing! But I certainly was something. From the first time ever we saw his face, I recoiled: Ben Stiller looked plucked, and tight, like an unborn chick dropped in-ovum from its nest, its protective shell smashed on the pavement of a fast-food parking lot. My little brother went to a party at his house once. He said Ben Stiller was wearing pancake makeup :(
Maybe they fucked up the timelines on purpose, to screw with our understanding of what was real and what was all in Ben Stiller’s head. This is a reality where Life Magazine is still publishing the week that Icelandic volcano erupted, and European airports were not shut down for a week afterward due to the ash plume. It’s a realm where Ben Stiller can get a clue about “buzkashi” and from that deduce to which Afghan mountaintop he should climb in a single day. Mostly though it is a universe where Shirley Maclaine is cast in the role of “nice mom,” and that is the entire character. Just “nice mom who is nice.” Shirley Maclaine survived being buried alive for this? :(
I have no beef with middle-aged angsty Stiller and the burdens of being a sad white male. (Intersectional friends: sometimes white men don’t even have the chance to oppress the rest of us!) I liked Greenberg! And even The Heartbreak Kid! Nobody liked that! And trust me, I get the appeal of an inner life filled with heroism and hot boyfriends what do not actually exist. But Mitty’s daydreams are pedestrian (AND LOUD) — all movie fights and ‘splosions and nonsense — and the film is infinitely better when it unaccountably leaves Mitty’s inner life behind for some good old-fashioned man-making.
Mitty breaks out of his sad baby egg shell after sending himself on an incredibly dumb mission to find Sean Penn (who’s excellent in the role of Magical Caucasian, and it feels so much better to look at the inch-deep wrinkles carved out of his forehead than to look at Stiller’s botoxed-to-hell face) for A Reason that doesn’t really matter. You will spend most of your time thinking Sean Penn sent him on this chase on purpose, but SPOILER he actually didn’t. The photography is beautiful, the adventures most excellent, although if you are like me you will be NITPICKING that a photojournalist schedules Afghanistan and Iceland one day after each other, because COME ON.
Kristen Wiig is lovely and sweet and likes Walter Mitty, yay her. Sean Penn is great. Adam Scott as the unbelievable dick boss is the funniest thing in the movie. Ben Stiller is in love with his own blue eyes. And the e-Harmony opening, featuring an unseen Patton Oswalt (NOT A SPOILER; if you didn’t recognize his voice, really, that’s on you) is embarrassing and terrible, a monument to (presumed) product placement that takes you out of the action almost as much as does the final Life Magazine cover — the mcguffin for this whole mishigas. If my art director had turned in that cover — the quintessence of Life — I would have fired him, and also stopped sleeping with him (probably). We end a movie about life and reality and the courage to make your dreams real on the falsest note in the entire film.
Then again, I really was hungry.