Friday, January 10, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

*** out of ****

If you are looking for something friendly and unchallenging, look no further than Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is no masterpiece but there are moments when it has such potential. It is a gorgeously shot comfort-film. I actually enjoyed it. There are many reasons to doubt a Stiller vehicle, but not when he's the one at the wheel -directing that is. I think that he's always had talent in this area. The visual ambition in each of his films leaves imagery engrained in ones memory. This is even true of The Cable Guy. Stiller likes using very intensely shot imagery for comic effect and it works a lot of the time.

This film, very loosely based on an old short-story that has gone through all kinds of incarnations, follows the adventures of a daydreamer (Stiller) who has been sparked with enough ambition to go on a REAL adventure. As an employee for Life Magazine, he is tasked with finding a missing photo for their final issue. The picture's freelance photographer (Sean Penn) may be the only person who knows of its whereabouts and is said to be across the world in a remote location. Driven by the encouragement of a love interest (Kristen Wiig), Mitty embarks on a journey.

The movie, while about the finding of a photographer, is clearly in love with film itself -and if my eyes don't lie, it is definitely shot on film. Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh captures the National Geographic-like splendor of the beautiful locations (mostly in Iceland).

On the downside, the story could stand to be a little deeper, and is pitifully dependent on product placement –even though Stiller tries to make the products work with the story and its comedy. These were still things that I could live with. It’s not a repeat-view film, but it wasn’t a waste of my time either.

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