What is it with Bens? Affleck, Daredevil and Gigli laughing stock has gone and turned into an Oscar baiting director of serious movies. Now Stiller, comedy legend, star of the Night of the Museum franchise and voice of Alex the Lion in Madagascar, is making similar leaps.
(Side Note: consider the fact that we live in a world where “Golden Globe winner Andy Samberg” and “two time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill” are real things, it becomes apparent that our comedians may be unfairly subjugated and put in to the proverbial box. The probability is that comedy is the hardest actorial skill to do well and that working backwards from there is a more logical move than vice versa. C’mon Day Lewis, let’s see you step up your rom-com game.)
Walter Mitty is a sentimental, but never schmaltzy film, as unassuming as it is impressive. The script is poetic, life-affirming even, and manages that essential quality of never being pandering, obvious or overbearing. It is slight and endearing because of that. Stiller’s Mitty is a poor down trodden guy, prone to zoning out and easy to ignore or laugh at. When his job is on the line and an important negative goes missing, Mitty wills his dreams into being.
After dazzling us with brilliant dream sequences, Stiller proceeds to dazzle us with Icelandic mountainscapes, Greenlandian helicopter jumps, Afghani snow leopards and shark fights. It’s remarkably assured filmmaking from Stiller and the presence of another actor turned director, Sean Penn, is telling. Mitty shares a similar look and heart to Penn’s brilliant Into The Wild. The spirit of adventure, the strength of man and the majesty of nature are kindred explorations of the two films.
In a simple logline, Mitty plays something like Forrest Gump meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s got Sunshine’s beating indie heart, romance teamed with an intelligent dream-blend. It’s got Gump’s roving narrative and genre strapping grandiosity, pulling you along a magnificent journey through the eyes of ordinary Joe.
– Oliver Drew