The Secret, Inside Joke of Walter Mitty

I’ll start off with the positives. The 2013 film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, is a gorgeous travelogue with Oscar caliber cinematography, wonderful special effects, and likeable performances by its cast. I enjoyed the soundtrack, including the fact that they used a Of Monsters and Men song when the scene shifts to Iceland. (And that is now two OMaM songs featured in the 2013 holiday movie season – the other being The Hunger Games, Catching Fire.)

The bad news is that it is an overdrawn Twilight Zone episode, padded with useless subplots that go nowhere. (Ironic, since the movie is about its title character going around the world). The antagonist, played by Adam Scott, is way over-the-top cartoonish, buffoonish, and too stupid, even for management standards (and wouldn’t even fit in a Dilbert comic strip). There are three heavily placed product placements in the film. One is essential to the plot; one is logical in its context, but hardly relevant; and one that is so completely pointless that it makes me wonder if I am missing out on an inside joke of director and title character, Ben Stiller.(NO SPOILER ALERT!) The product placements are so non-essential that they do not spoiler the plot for those who wish to see the movie, but yet have not seen it. The first one, the one that is plot significant is eharmony. The movie could have used any online dating site, but the way the story was written, a dating website was needed. The second one that I mentioned, is Cinnabon. I did a quick search online, and yes, there really is a Cinnabon store at the LAX airport. The movie could have used any food court store that exists within the airport. Like I said, it does make sense in context of the film. And it is the only on-screen scene for Patton Oswalt. For his sake, it would have been a shame if this scene was cut. But the most egregious example is Papa John’s. There is a quick explanation as to why Papa John’s has to be in the movie, but I found it to be a lame excuse for shameless promotion. I did another quick search. I could not verify the existence of a PJ franchise in Iceland.

There is also shameless promotion of a couple of 1970’s songs. One is the David Bowie classic, “Space Oddity” (a.k.a.: the “Ground Control to Major Tom” song). It is made essential to the plot in the middle of the movie. I concede its inclusion as vital since Walter Mitty is described by everyone as a “space cadet.” The movie also references “Escape (The Piña Colada song).” Perhaps I’m being a contrarian. Perhaps I am using 21st century social standards. But I do not find the song as an upbeat, positive song. Perhaps it was back when it was released in 1979, but it is a song that glorifies cheating on your spouse. (The fact that both parties got busted looking to cheat makes this song a poor hybrid of The Human League’s, “Human”, and Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s;” both of which are downbeat, not-positive songs.)

Bottom line: the movie is fine and enjoyable if it is your in-flight movie. Or if you are stuck in traffic, (as a passenger of course). But I advise that you follow Walter’s lead, and go out and do something active in your life, and pass on this movie. My grade: a head in the clouds, sky blue “C“.


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