Oct 17, 2013

REVIEW: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

From my Guardian review:—
'Working with Jane Campion’s cinematographer, Stuart Dryburgh, Stiller films himself small in the frame, frequently viewed from above, more mouse than man, scurrying through the vast modernist spaces of the Time-Life building like the long lost cousin of Jacques Tati in Playtime, whose sleek, slate-grey production design this movie meticulously evokes — a haunting talisman. Playtime was Tati’s last film, a ruinously expensive bid for respectability that gave off the empty rattle of perfectionism — pratfalls echoing tinnily through lavish, empty sets. Stiller’s film is certainly a looker — there are dissolves that would make Orson Welles blush — but how good-looking does comedy need to be exactly?  As with his last film, Tropic Thunder, the production values sometimes appear to be the joke. There’s a battle on the streets of Manhattan involving man-hole covers and Stretch Armstrong — don't ask — whose special effects would be the envy of Michael Bay, but does the money make the sequence funnier? It doesn’t make it unfunnier, I suppose.  It’s just expensive. After Mitty loses one of O Connell’s negatives on the eve of a corporate takeover, and jets off to Iceland for a high seas adventure battling sharks and  volcanoes — so sudden is the pivot, in fact, that you were to take a toilet break at this point you would spend the rest of the film in a state of unending, head-scratching perplexity. There are two problems with this besides precipitousness. 1) With Mitty’s real life now as zoomily adventurous as his fantasy life, the laughs begin to dry up. In their place we get the usual rom-comish exhortations to break out of your shell, reach  out, connect and whatnot, all of which would be more convincing were it not that 2) what we get in the second hour is basically a series of solo adventures, with Mitty skateboarding through Greenland’s mountain ranges to the sound of Jose Gonzales, alone, like someone rocking out to their Walkman, or hiking up he Himalayas, and confiding in his diary, “I’m alone.” It’s very odd. This has to be one of the loneliest odes to togetherness ever made.' 


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