A PG MOVIE! YAY! I think I may have one of each rating on this page minus NC-17. But am I really going to review an NC-17 film? Probs not. My wife would get mad.
DIRECTOR: Ben Stiller
I'm breaking my own rules. Actually, I'm probably breaking Greg's rules. Greg was a guy I worked with at Thomas Video before I became a teacher. He takes the idea of splitting a movie into separate viewings because it breaks up the flow. He's probably right. He probably got that idea off of David Lynch, who yelled at the Internet for watching a movie on a phone. That part I agree with, but ignore the rules. I also drive five miles over the speed limit.
What I'm saying is that I watched this movie very broken up. I'm a bad person.
Ben Stiller has some explaining to do. In many ways, I applaud his approach to this movie. He is aware of his reputation in Hollywood. I have always thought of Ben Stiller as a genius and I've always waited for him to scream it to the world. He always peeks his head in and really shows how smart he is. Watching The Ben Stiller Show or forcibly recommending The Cable Guy to everyone I know, I needed people to find out how he's not just a goofy funny man. The guy has a some serious chops. But my major criticism is how big he's become.
That sounds super-hipster, but becoming a blockbuster sensation has really ruined him. I am prefacing everything I'm saying because this movie has everything needed to become a genuine classic. But he had to ruin it with the worst use of product placement I have ever seen. Product placement is simply a part of Hollywood. I understand that people need to supplement the budget of a film somehow. But there is a wide gap between someone drinking a Heineken in the background of a James Bond movie and the movie surrounding a product. Before this movie, the greatest perpetrators of product placement were CastAway and You've Got Mail. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty takes the grand prize. I can say that every five minutes, I had to hear a comment from a character dropping a brand name somewhere in the story. Walter Mitty cannot function without it. I don't even mind the Life Magazine aspect. That at least is culturally relevant. It's the Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's the Papa Johns. It's the scene at CINNABON WHERE AN EHARMONY REP TELLS THE PROTAGONIST HOW GOOD CINNABON IS! Why? You created something beautiful and then slapped logos all over it. You were so close.
I can't stress how much product placement ruined this movie, but looking at the other elements, everything is near perfect. In terms of formalist film style, the movie is gorgeous and plays with non-diagetic elements constantly. When it works, it really works. Impressively, as amazing as the movie looks, it never crosses the line of pretension. Stiller still makes a funny movie when it needs to be funny. He allows the drama to be subtle, with the exception of Adam Scott's character. The cinematography is absolutely goregous, really pushing the limits of high def filming. There is no reason for this movie to be so weak outside of the fact that movie paid for everything with product placement. (Note: Googling this movie revealed that this movie won the award for Worst Product Placement. Apparently, Walter Mitty could not have worked at Papa John's as a kid because Papa John's didn't exist when he was a kid.)
In talking about a remake of a classic, I have to say that this movie may have proven that some movies are allowed to have remakes. I was never a fan of the original Walter Mitty. I honestly think that movie might be made for Danny Kaye fans alone. Not to say I dislike Danny Kaye, but I'm not part of the fan club so the movie isn't as amazing as some make it out to be. But both movies need a sense of vulnerability. My film snobbery desperately fights against emotional manipulation, but that might be a poor response. The movie moves and tugs at the heart strings and maybe all of the moments aren't truly earned. But going into the movie with an attitude that I'm allowed to relax? That's probably what this movie needs. Treat this like Forrest Gump. It's manipulative, but that's okay.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.