How can you not love this time of year? The wonder and magic of the season rub off on you no matter how Scrooge-ish you may be, and even though this may technically be the shortest Christmas season yet, I’m still giddy over films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Mrs. Santa Claus, and White Christmas. So let’s head to the theaters and catch the latest Christmas special . . . Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas?
I can feel my Christmas spirit waning already.
Well, here’s one offering that may not be a “Christmas” movie, but is definitely full of wonder and imagination. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty follows a daydreaming Life Magazine employee as he travels the world in search of a missing photo. But has it earned a place on the nice list or the naughty list? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
The title character is played by Ben Stiller, known for such films as Night at the Museum, Zoolander, and Tropic Thunder. His love interest, Cheryl Melhoff, is played by Kristen Wiig, who has also starred in Bridesmaids, How to Train Your Dragon, and Despicable Me 2. The director is . . . Ben Stiller. That can’t be right. He directs? Well, apparently he also directed Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. How is that going to affect this film? I have no idea. As far as I know, he’s never directed anything semi-serious, so this could be an interesting new endeavor … or a horrible flop.
The trailer opens with Walter Mitty trying unsuccessfully to leave a wink for Cheryl on eHarmony. How pathetic are you when you can’t even wink at a person in real life? That’s even sadder than poking people on Facebook. He calls tech support to find out why he can’t leave a wink, and it turns out the website requires information about noteworthy places or activities before it can work. Wait, so you can’t wink at people unless you’ve been on some crazy adventure? What kind of dating site is this?
Suddenly, Walter hangs up the phone, leaps off a bridge, crashes headfirst through a window, and saves a puppy from the exploding building to the strains of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the praise of Cheryl Melhoff. Well, I’m so glad this is all real and not imagined at all—oh look, he imagined it all. What a shock. Also, I really hope he doesn’t write for a living. Dialogue like “God, you’re noteworthy” won’t take him far. The guy on the phone asks if he zones out like this often, and Walter apparently zones out thinking about all the times he zoned out.
We cut to a meeting at Walter’s workplace, where his boss tells the employees that “We have ahead of us the privilege of publishing the very last edition of Life Magazine.” A privilege we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t done such a horrible job with the last five years of issues. Well, it may not be fair to make that joke, but Walter may end up ruining this last edition of the magazine. His job is to look after the negatives for the magazine photos, but the most important negative, the cover photo, is mysteriously missing.
But enough real problems; it’s time for Walter to zone out again. This time, he imagines himself as a rugged mountain climber in the Himalayas, approaching Cheryl with confidence and masculinity. “The ice,” he says, “she moves like a woman.” I didn’t know women moved so sluggishly except in the bathroom. Excuse me as I duck to avoid the purses hurled at my head. Cheryl asks Walter what he’s doing up there in the mountains, and he replies, “Testing the limits of the human spirit.” Turns out climbing a frozen mountain makes the average human spirit break down and cry like a baby. “I’d like to climb your hair, test that out,” says Cheryl. Wow. I’ve honestly got nothing. That is the worst pickup line ever. But Walter snaps back into reality, trying to have a conversation with Cheryl until he realizes she’s speaking to the woman behind him. Ouch. Guess that ice dream left you out in the cold.
A woman who might be Walter’s mother asks what he calls it when his mind wanders, saying that he does that sometimes. We get it, he zones out a lot. Stop beating us over the head with it, trailer. But just for good measure, Walter fantasizes about beating up his boss, even tackling him out a window into a presumably fatal drop. Sure, push your boss through a window because he expects you to do your job. Sounds like a rational response. Should I get in touch with Bellevue? They have a room right next to some guy who thinks he’s Santa Claus.
We finally return to the plot of the movie as Walter decides to search out the missing negative. He races down the hall past oversized Life Magazine covers and—wait, why is his face in an astronaut suit in that picture? Is he zoned out again? Is he secretly noteworthy? Is it some kind of forced metaphor the movie is trying to work in? What? No time for explanation, because Walter has a helicopter to catch.
Cheryl talks about mysteries and how pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit suddenly come together and make sense. Except why a flock of birds form a human face. That makes no sense at all. Walter leaps from his helicopter to a boat. Well, he tries. He’s nowhere close. Insert cartoon sound effect here; I personally prefer the Goofy “Yaaahoohoohooey!”
While on his quest that could mean losing his job and disgracing a world-renowned magazine, Walter takes plenty of breaks to skateboard on empty highways and chase storms. “Life is about courage and going into the unknown,” Cheryl tells him. And about getting slapped in the face with a branch. Other cultures are weird. And apparently, they serve weird foods, as Walter eyes a platter of offerings suspiciously. Cheer up, kid. You could be eating chilled monkey brains.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Well, yeah, I guess I do. I don’t know much about the storyline, except that it has almost nothing to do with the short story of the same name or the first film adaptation starring Danny Kaye. But the cinematography in this picture is absolutely beautiful, as the trailer shows off. In fact, I would be highly surprised if this film isn’t nominated for an Oscar in some visual category. Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig are both good comedic actors, but even though this film is listed as a comedy, the trailer is understated, inspirational, and fairly serious at some points. In short, I’m curious and optimistic about this movie. While I most likely won’t be seeing it in theaters, I’ll definitely be checking it out when it comes out on DVD. All in all, I can’t think of a better trailer with which to end the year, and that’s Christmas present enough for me.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is owned by 20th Century Fox.