Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a mild-mannered Life magazine photo editor capable of astonishing feats of derring-do -- in his daydreams. In real life, he can hardly make eye contact with his crush (Kristen Wiig) or say boo to his bully of a boss (Adam Scott). When unadventurous, real-life Walter is tasked with finding a photo negative on the other side of the planet, he must decide if he's willing to take a chance and hit the road.
Based on an adaptation of the 1939 story by James Thurber (and directed by Stiller), this Walter Mitty isn't about a sad sack, but rather a man haunted by regret. Earlier experiences turned him timid, but the right circumstances could make him a hero. He practices taking risks in his elaborately staged daydreams, where he fights fires and socks his boss in the jaw. But the light amusement of these set-pieces is overwhelmed by technology-enhanced throwaway gags. The exception is a heart-tugger starring Wiig and an acoustic guitar. Walter Mitty is also a very busy, pretty production: pretty colors, pretty scenery, pretty bromides. This draws attention away from the fact that this generous, humane movie is not that interesting.
Could it be the case of a director miscalculating his leading man's strengths? Lean and wolfish, Stiller the actor wears Walter's haunted nature beautifully. But Stiller the director overdoses on empty razzle-dazzle. The passion is there, but it's put in the wrong places.