Ben Stiller directs himself as Walter Mitty, forever a daydreamer who barely leaves an impression at work, but in his mind is the most extraordinary man alive—especially with the help of all those visual effects. Suddenly, a missing photograph for the very last printed issue of Life magazine, where Walter has worked for years, brings out the real life adventurer in him and more importantly, the film.
1. "All In His Head" Tires Fast: The biggest selling point in the TV spots are Walter's moments when he "zones out" and imagines himself in a tug of war with his tyrannical boss (Scott) using a Stretch Armstrong doll, or as a ruggedly handsome outdoorsmen who comes to the rescue of his office crush (Wiig) and so on. It never quite gels. The CGI-heavy scenes are often too on the nose. Thankfully, there's plenty that isn't fake that's more of a dream.
2. Second Verse, Better Than the First: The best moments are Mitty's real-life adventures, as he traverses stunning vistas in Greenland and Iceland. Oscar-nominated director of photography Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano) uses these locations to open up the canvas, with classic tracks from Queen or new tunes from Arcade Fire as the perfect accompaniment to some of the more striking scenes, like Walter skateboarding a lone freeway while literal volcanic eruptions occur.
3. Not the First Big-Screen Mitty: James Thurber's short story was first published in The New Yorker way back in 1939. Danny Kaye starred in the first filmed adaptation in 1947. That version had Mitty working as a proofreader for a pulp fiction company who lived with his over-protective mother. In the 1947, version the mysterious objects he's out to find are the Dutch crown jewels that were lost after WWII.
4. MVP: Sean Penn: Mitty's main quest is to track down find Life magazine photojournalist Sean O'Connell (Penn) to hopefully discover the whereabouts of missing picture No. 25. Penn's singular scene does not disappoint.
5. Satisfying Conclusion: A whole tale about a missing photograph builds the anticipation—after nearly two hours, it feels impossible to meet our high expectations. What image could be so definitive, so quintessentially Life magazine that viewers won't be underwhelmed? Surprisingly, the image is quite unforgettable. Well worth the wait.