The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is directed by and stars Ben Stiller. So you can expect bits of comedy will be sprinkled into the movie, including a laugh-out-loud moment early on when he’s online dating and trying to contact a co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). But it isn’t a pure comedy, or even a purely romantic comedy, at least from my perspective. Its sort of an adventure-driven story of growth for the titular character that develops out of his attempts at online dating—at least in the intro, though there are some familial obligations given later as reasons he couldn’t adventure before. Apparently, in the beginning, Mitty’s profile isn’t complete, and when he calls up the website’s support services Todd (Patton Oswalt) informs him that he should fill out a prompt for ‘been there / done that’. Mitty realizing he hasn’t been there or done that inadvertently finds himself on an adventure chasing down a photo negative from famed Life-cover photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) as he’s trying to court Cheryl and to save his job at Life magazine which is about to transition into a digital online publication (in the film).
By this point it is apparent that Mitty lapses into flights of fancy, tuning out the real world as his mind attempts to release his intrepid spirit through adventurous or explosive scenes. The first such dream has a moment that echoes a jumping scene in the third Bourne movie, as the camera jumps with the actor through the window. But as the slide becomes his focus, Mitty’s reality becomes almost as implausible as his dreams. He attempts to trail O’Connell through Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas and jumps out of a helicopter, recalls his skateboarding days and climbs mountains. The cinematography for these scenes is astounding as it displays these vistas proudly, encouraging a viewer’s own desire to explore the world.