Personally, I expected a lot from this film. A successful film about the transcendence is rare and Ben Stiller directing, I thought it might be funny and honest.
The film is greatly sold: the trailer is very effective thanks to the soundtrack that remains in our minds and beautiful shots of Iceland and the Himalayas among others. The only downside is that it reveals the first 15 minutes of the film. Fortunately, the rest is more or less preserved.
Initially it works; the opening credits are very cool, the directing is uncommon without overdoing it (names scrolling as elements of the scenery) the photography is very beautiful , dominated by white light and the wide shots are accurate and ingenious. This is the case throughout the film elsewhere; there are transitions between the scenes that are great. Thus, we see that this film has received very substantial budget especially since it is a film of an unclassifiable genre. This film has cost $ 90 million. Comparatively, “The Wolf of Wall Street» and «Gravity ” each cost approximately $ 100 million. Ben Stiller was able to have fun with the scenes of ” zone out ” where his character is sometimes a superhero (it’s very fashionable right now) sometimes an explorer etc. . It would also perhaps been better that the “stunt” budget would have been spent more in the travelling scenes that are far more interesting (not that they are sloppy but they could have been longer). .. Which brings us to the screenplay …
At the beginning of the film we think it’s going to be a great movie, that he managed to make a film about something as risky as transcendence , a philosophical story that will inspire everyone and which is welcomed in the current context of crisis. And then we are disappointed … Beyond daydreaming scenes that are a bit too represented (some quite grotesque like the shark scene which we are not sure whether it is reality or not but perhaps is this on purpose !) we see a man who travels in so interesting countries (Greenland, Iceland, Afghanistan) but through his American eyes …
So of course, it is punctuated with some Stiller humor and what happens to him “weird” in the real world can be excused by the fact that he confuses his dreams with reality … it happens in Greenland where he finds directly a karaoke bar where people speak English or in Iceland with Papa John’s (a pizza chain restaurant existing only in the USA and in Canada).
In this regard, the product placement in this film is omnipresent. So once more, we can justify it by saying that we are daily being polluted by advertising of any kind. LIFE magazine covers in some shots are welcomed but selling eHarmony (Ben Stiller ‘s character literally says he loves it) or making fast food chains key things in the plot is too much. Another very American and very annoying thing: the lack of subtlety considering the characters.
Walter Mitty is very well played by Ben Stiller. He, himself confessed having lower down his actor ego for this part and it is successfully done: one does not feel that the director / actor wanted to be highlighted. But beyond his character, his ideal woman is as perfect as she can be, his nice colleague is very nice, his adventurous mentor is also as we imagine and the wicked boss is a very bad one with a ridiculous beard. But again, this is excusable because it is a movie about fantasies , almost like a superhero one(numerous references are made).
The worst thing about this American story told by American people , is the last 30 minutes of the film. The picture that Walter Mitty went to find at the other side of the world could have been a great McGuffin , an excuse to transcend himself … Well it is not. It exists and there is just too ridiculous.
Without any intention to spoil the film which is still worth seeing, we expect everything that happens , we’re just surprised that goes so far with the “let’s bring tears” moves. They keep on repeating the firm motto that the bad financial people are too dumb to understand…not too subtle we said earlier.
I like those kind of movies, and the soundtrack pulls it off , when he is abroad we want to travel, but the reality of the film is not up to our fantasies … On the good side, there are a lot of music and film references and it is quite pleasant. Ben Stiller wanted to make an honest film about a screenplay that touched him but unfortunately it had had worries to find its audience in the US when it was its main target. To sum up, the movie is disappointing but the directing is interesting …One can watch without great expectations.