So today I went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Along with The Desolation of Smaug (which I'll probably not talk about here because I'm too much of a fanboy), Mitty was one of my more highly anticipated movies of the season. I've always had a soft spot for characters who get lost in their own little fantasy worlds, notably Zach Braff's "J.D." on Scrubs or Calista Flockhart's titular Ally McBeal -- they're neurotic and sad and I very much identify.
When leaving the theater after Mitty I overheard one little old lady comment to her two little old lady pals, "I didn't like the beginning much, but it got better" which strangely helped me organize my feelings about it. For about the first half you would have seen a look of horror on my face as my hopes and dreams for the film were slashed to bloody pieces: the writing was terrible. The jokes fell flat, the fantasies were utterly bizarre (the fantasies from the source material would have made much more sense, but apparently the film had to be stripped of anything at all resembling Thurber's original story), and there was a schizophrenic bleed of fantasy into reality (mountains crumbling to reveal text messages) that completely lacked any sort of charm.
Even the cinematography, which briefly captured some truly stunning views of Iceland and Afghanistan, failed to let us linger in the beauty of those moments -- a central theme of the film. I remember very specifically one scene in Afghanistan where Mitty is hiking up the Himalayas and the music builds to this great crescendo a la The Return of the King when the beacons are lit, and we crest over one ridge to this gorgeous panoramic view of the mountains only to be drawn down with barely a glimpse of the beauty to Ben Stiller huffing and puffing up the trail.
Some of the plot points -- like the sale of an old piano -- just don't make sense, and the oodles of product placements were annoying as hell (eHarmony probably financed half the damned film for an entirely pointless subplot, and the gushing over Cinnabon was laughable), but what did help to save the movie for me in the end was the adherence to and borderline overstatement of the fictional Life magazine motto about following your dreams and the purpose of life or some such sentimental bullshit, but it worked. It tied the film together and left us with a vague sense of having been inspired that lasted approximately until we reached the parking lot.
Is it worth seeing? Sure, if you're bored, but don't have your hopes up too high. Netflix? Maybe, but the natural beauty that we're able to glimpse might make the cost of the big screen worth it. Better yet, let's take a trip to Iceland instead. I'll read you the short story on the way -- even it's not that great but it will only take about ten minutes.