In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Ben Stiller plays a mild-mannered Life magazine employee, in love with a co-worker (Kristen Wiig), who stops daydreaming about adventures and goes on a real-life one when he misplaces a negative from a celebrated photographer (Sean Penn).
The result is a sweet, hopeful, good-hearted tale hampered by the fact that it can’t quite decide whether it’s a comedy or a drama.
Nonetheless, here are nine reasons to see it
1) Stiller really comes into his own as a director. It’s the first time I can remember liking what he does behind the camera better than what he does in front of it.
2) The stunning visuals. Not only does Stiller employ some interesting directing flourishes, he incorporates some remarkable natural ones.
3) A great “Benjamin Button” gag.
4) The fact that it ditches the elaborate daydreams fairly early on. They’re clever but distracting, leaving you wondering exactly where Mitty would fall on the autism spectrum.
5) The scene set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Everything’s better with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
6) Some of the most random product placement ever. In addition to Life magazine, which hasn’t existed since 2000, eHarmony, Papa John’s, Stretch Armstrong and Cinnabon all get major plugs.
7) Speaking of random, listen for the “Outsiders” shoutout.
8) When was the last time you got to see Penn act?
9) When was the last time you got to see Wiig act normal?
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is rated PG and opens Christmas day.