Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ben Stiller’s “Walter Mitty” So Bad that NYPost Reviewer Calls it a “Lifeless Flick”


Talk about corporate synergy! The NYPost and 20th Century Fox are each owned by Rupert Murdoch. You’d think that an expensive Fox movie with a Christmas Day rollout might get a little love from the Post even if it’s not that great. Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” has a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you know some people liked it a little bit. It’s not like it’s totally slammed.

But who really didn’t like it? The NY Post! Kyle Smith, who bashed “Philomena” for being anti-Catholic, has been on a tear all season. Now he’s gone after his own company’s Christmas jewel in the crown, “Walter Mitty.” In his 1 and a half star review titled “Walter Mitty is a Lifeless Flick,” Smith in unsparing in his disgust over Stiller’s take on the Danny Kaye classic.

He writes: “This meaningless excuse for special-effects spending is like watching a wheezing arthritic horse dragging a tractor-trailer full of big-budget digital equipment.”


Yes, there’s more: He says Stiller’s directing is “what looks like one of his last desperate reaches for artistic importance.”

Smith concludes: “That this movie got made at all demonstrates that Hollywood thinks that if it can design a project so as to yield half a dozen different digital sequences for the trailer, no one will much care about whether they add up to anything. Walter’s fantastic trip to faraway lands of adventure was superfluous, making his movie “The Wizard of Zzzzzz.”

Well, “Mitty” is a so-so effort. Stiller is not a great director. “The Cable Guy” remains a low point in movie history. But he is an excellent writer and I enjoy him as an actor. He was especially good in “Greenberg” and very funny in “Tropic Thunder.”

More to the point, Fox has not had a great year. They’ve just had 3 duds in a row with “Runner Runner,” “The Book Thief,” and “The Counselor.” Earlier this year, “The Internship” was an embarrassment. Their highest grossing film of the year was the animated “The Croods,” which you never saw. They also flopped in the US with “A Good Day to Die Hard,” although its awfulness wasn’t realized abroad where it made $237 million. (Thank god for China, Japan, and South Korea!)

As for the NYPost: you only hurt the ones you love. Families are never easy at Christmas time.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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