Not so secret 

Walter Mitty follows an obvious path

Oh my god, the bland drudgery of Walter Mitty's life punctuated by manufactured moments of lame thrills. And, at over two hours, it feels long. Like "the summer of the shark" when an abnormal amount of people got attacked in the water by sharks, I think 2013 will forever go down as the year of the Unnecessarily Long Film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, focuses on a mild-mannered photo processor at Life magazine with a penchant for daydreaming. He's got a crush on his coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), whom he attempts to "wink" at on eHarmony, but even this he can't do right. Walter shows up at work only to find out that the magazine is about to make its last print issue and nearly everyone will lose their job. A thoroughly unlikable man named Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) has been brought in to lead the transition from print to online. Straight away Ted makes it clear he doesn't like guys who stare into space, and a rivalry is born.

Walter is in contact with an apparently brilliant, renegade photographer named Sean O'Connell, played by Sean Penn. We have to take the film's word for it that he's a good photographer, because in the grand tradition of crappy movies, this one assumes we don't have enough interest in actual art to see his work. O'Connell sends him a roll of film with a special engraved wallet and explicit instructions stating that frame 25 in particular is the one that should go on the magazine's last cover. But Walter and his assistant can't find the frame, and the evil boss is breathing down his neck. What else can he do but embark on a crazy international adventure to try to find the elusive O'Connell, thus making his fantasy world a reality and proving his life's worth?

click to enlarge An alternate opening to “Breaking Bad”
  • An alternate opening to “Breaking Bad”

Any filmgoer with half a brain will have intuited where the missing frame is. Why he doesn't look more thoroughly in the first place is a conceit that's just too dumb to forgive. Mitty's quest to find the photo takes him to Greenland, then Iceland, and finally uncharted Afghanistan. When Walter finds himself in shark-infested waters, his character helpfully tells us "this is real." Fans of American Express commercials in particular will enjoy these sequences. This is how white people find themselves, folks.

Walter finally meets up with O'Connell, and I have to admit that it's a nice moment. O'Connell is a good character who really seems to have figured out the essence of life. When Walter gets angry about the misunderstanding over the photo, O'Connell just sort of shrugs and says, "Hey, I thought it was a playful gesture." It was!

Throughout the story, Walter develops a friendship over the phone with an eHarmony representative, played by Patton Oswalt. Here's an actor who has the charisma to make just about any part work, but it's hard to believe somebody as cool as Oswalt's character would go out of his way to form a friendship with someone like Walter. Still, their phone conversations offer sweet relief from an otherwise intolerable experience, and for that I'm thankful.

I disliked this movie because the characters are boring, their adventures are hackneyed and the romance is just about the lamest I've seen all year. Cheryl and Walter are unobjectionable people and thus perfect for each other. The misunderstanding that keeps them apart is so dull that I don't even know why they bothered. (Here's a spoiler: She's not dating the refrigerator repairman after all.) Poor Kristen Wiig. It's such a shame to see one of the best comedic actresses working today in a role with no jokes that virtually any other pretty lady in Hollywood could have played.

If I were you, I'd take a page from Walter Mitty's playbook: Save your money and imagine you've gone to see a better film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty continues at the Carmike 12.

This article has been updated to list the correct run length of the film.

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