After years of Hollywood development and multiple A-list stars come and gone, James Thurber’s classic short story gets an overly cutesy treatment from director-star Ben Stiller. There’s little soulfulness to his central dreamer, a New York City photo archivist about to be downsized by Life magazine (preciously revived from its actual 2000 demise). As an actor, Stiller is way too intense to play a tragically blocked everyguy; his walk alone is pushy.
Even on the film’s poorly conceived terms, though, Walter’s timidity is barely explained. He has difficulty clicking on eHarmony and reaching out to coworker Kristen Wiig—until, of course, he doesn’t, and these problems waft away with little personal reckoning. Cue Wes Anderson–like sequences of skateboarding down a volcano’s slope and jetting off to Afghanistan. You’re going to find it all either enormously empowering or deeply calculated: an Arcade Fire–scored TV commercial for instant spirituality.
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