I don’t like the word “dramady”. It is often used to describe a movie/TV program which is a combination of drama and comedy. According to my spellchecker, it’s not even a word, although a couple of online dictionaries include it. It sounds too much like that Dramamine, the medicine you take to avoid motion sickness.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty defies categorization. Yes, it is funny. It’s also dramatic, artistic, and inspiring. It is also surprising this movie was even made.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (and no, I’m not going to call it Walter Mitty, Mitty, or SLWM to save time. If you’re in that much of a hurry, stop reading now and leave) tells us the story of Walter Mitty (portrayed by Ben Stiller, son of Jerry Stiller & Ann Meara), who works at Life magazine overseeing the photographic negatives. For you young people reading, a magazine is like a webpage printed out. A photographic negative is a, well, it’s like a, well, just Google it. I don’t feel like explaining it right now.
His life is boring, and he often zones out, imagining himself in heroic situations. Things change when a negative by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) goes missing, and Walter travels to Iceland, Greenland, and the Himalayan Mountains to find Sean, and hopefully the negative. His true life adventures now take the place of his fantasies. Director Ben Stiller (also the son of Jerry Stiller and Ann Meara) understands the potential of telling this story on a 70 foot wide canvas. Any given shot in the film is suitable for framing, so the movie is a pleasure to watch.
Like movies of older generations, the supporting cast has been filled to perfection. Kirsten Wigg is Walter’s potential-but-seemingly-out-of-reach love interest, and in smaller, but noteworthy roles are Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as an Icelandic helicopter pilot and Patton Oswalt as an eHarmony employee. Sean Penn and Shirley Maclaine are also on hand, and are surprisingly not annoying as they fill out their roles without drawing attention to their real life personalities.
To me the best category to put this film in would be the heart category. It is full of heart. Perhaps because Ben Stiller identifies with Walter. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, Stiller feels like he connects “with the guy who lives in his head a lot of the time”. Says Stiller “My daughter will call me out on regular occasions [when we’re out with people] and say, ‘My daddy’s not listening to you.’ ”
So go buy a ticket, go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and listen, with your eyes, and heart, wide open.