'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' Polarizes Critics After Debut

Twentieth Century Fox premiered Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” at the New York Film Festival on Saturday afternoon, with a simultaneous screening held in Los Angeles for West Coast journalists and critics. The film, which Stiller directed and based on James Thurber’s 1939 New Yorker short story, left the critical community divided like few releases thus far this year.

“The film’s pleasures may be too minor-key and its pace too meandering to conquer the mainstream,” wrote David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter. “But audiences willing to tune in to its blend of surreal fantasy, droll comedy and poignancy will be rewarded.”

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” stars Stiller as the title character, a LIFE magazine negative asset manager (a.k.a. photo editor) who retreats to day dreams to escape the confines of his mild-mannered life. After a corporate takeover puts the magazine on death’s door (a vicious Adam Scott plays the film’s main antagonist), Mitty is forced to live out his fantasies while hunting for a missing negative from the periodical’s ace photographer (Sean Penn) that will be used for the final LIFE cover. (Steve Conrad’s script takes Mitty from midtown Manhattan to Iceland, Greenland and even Afghanistan.) Kristen Wiig (as Mitty’s literal dream girl), Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn and Patton Oswalt round out the supporting cast.

After the New York Film Festival screening, Stiller, Wiig, Conrad and production designer Jeff Mann and producer John Goldwyn participated in a Q&A session about “Walter Mitty,” which was first turned into a film by Danny Kaye in 1947.

“I didn’t want to attempt to do that,” Stiller, who came onto “Walter Mitty” after it was in development for years, said about the Kaye version of the story. “What was exciting for me was that Steve took this idea [and kept] the spirit of the original story, and the character Thurber created, which is an obviously iconic character.”

Whether Conrad and Stiller actually succeeded at that is what critics and bloggers hashed out on Twitter in the minutes and hours after the screenings. Below, a round-up of the early, polarizing “Walter Mitty” Twitter reactions (more on the film from HuffPost Entertainment senior writer Mike Ryan can be found here).

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is out in theaters on Christmas Day.

What do you think?

Written by Social Bookmark


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