walter mitty, ben stiller, oscar watch

Once thought of as an Oscar/Awards contender, Walter Mitty is largely being ignored throughout the circuit.  Fox thought they had a hit on their hands, but the film’s buzz is obviously proving disappointing to them.  Still, the film does have some champions, and it got a warm welcome at a Lincoln Center screening in New York, as well as the American Film Institute’s recent premiere screening in Los Angeles.

But, people close to Fox say the team is concerned. Stiller directs and stars in James Thurber’s classic, whimsical story of a daydreamer who escapes his anonymous, humdrum life by disappearing into a fantasy worlds, filled with action, heroism and romanticism.  He falls for a co-worker, played sweetly by Kristen Wiig, and when both of their jobs are on the line, Walter takes action by embarking on a global journey with more adventure than anything he could ever imagine on his own.  Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn and an especially clever Sean Penn turn in fun performances.

Bottom line though, the film fails to engage throughout.  There are stretches where it sags and you kind of tune out. Mitty has been bouncing around Hollywood for awhile. At various points Jim Carrey and Owen Wilson were names bandied about to play Walter, while Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg were names that were interested in directing. But Hollywood being Hollywood, Mitty went into development hell and stayed there for some years until Stiller revived the project.

Stiller is passable, but one wishes a bit for a deeper more engaging performance that a Carrey or Wilson could have provided.  The photography is certainly spectacular, the film jaunts to Iceland and Greenland for Walter’s adventures.  Penn and Stiller have a poignant and very funny scene on a mountaintop in the Himalayas. Alas though, with the season already being crazy crowded with various audience and reviewer pleasers like American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Wolf Of Wall Street, Philomena, The Butler, August Osage County, Captain Phillips, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, and more, Mitty might have trouble climbing the aforementioned mountaintop to any award season wins.

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