Story

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about a man who has a very ordinary life but lives out his adventures, romances and heroism through daydreams. In this modern version of the story, Walter (Ben Stiller) is the negative asset manager for Life magazine in its final days of print. Walter is secretly in love with coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and tries to contact her through an internet dating site, but with no luck. When Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) arrives on the scene to manage the transition of Life to an online magazine, many of the workers’ jobs are threatened.

Walter has been a faithful and dependable employee for 12 years and finds Hendricks so intolerable that he is driven do something about it. He sets out to find elusive photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) who holds the key to a particular negative he needs. This takes him on an amazing journey to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas and to adventures he has never even dreamed of.

Themes

Adventure and heroism; workplace bullying

Violence

There is some violence in this movie, much of which occurs in scenes imagined by Walter. For example:

  • Walter hears a dog in trouble so he imagines flying off a railway bridge and crashing into an apartment window to rescue the dog.
  • Walter reacts badly when Ted tries to take a childhood stretchy toy his sister has brought to the office. Walter and Ted fight over the toy. Walter bashes Ted hard and they both fall through a window and land on a truck. They continue the fight on the street with Walter bashing Ted over the head with an umbrella.
  • Walter is threatened in a bar in Iceland by a very large drunk man. The man pushes Walter off his seat and is about to hit him with a beer glass.
  • Walter is attacked by sharks when he lands in the ocean.
  • During an X-ray security check, the officers try to take a flute from Walter. Walter punches the officer (all shown in X-ray form) and gets arrested.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • Walter is shown as an old man but in baby size (he imagines he has Benjamin Button’s disease).
  • The drunk man who attacks Walter is very large and looks quite scary.
  • The sharks in the ocean where Walter lands are menacing.

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • There are several sudden action scenes that could be quite alarming for children in this age group, such as when Walter imagines he’s turning into a superhero and jumps off bridges.
  • People talk about how one of the negatives has blood on it from a gunshot wound.
  • In Walter’s imagination he kisses Cheryl and tells her he has Benjamin Button’s disease. Then they are shown as old people sitting on a bench, but Walter is the size of a baby.
  • Walter has to jump out of a helicopter into a small boat. He misses it and lands in the freezing ocean, which is very choppy. He sinks into the water but floats to the top. Then he is attacked by a group of sharks.
  • Walter arrives in a village in Iceland and can’t understand why everyone is leaving. A local man persuades him to get into his car and just as they drive off a volcano erupts. The man has to drive very fast as the volcanic ash rapidly billows out behind them.

From 8-13

Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Nothing of concern 

Sexual references

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has some sexual references. For example:

  • There is mild flirting between Walter and Cheryl.
  • In Iceland Walter has to beat the ship’s crew to the only bike available. One of the men describes the crew as a ‘bunch of horny Chileans’ who are intent on getting to the local strip club. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty doesn’t show any use of substances, but someone says how the icing on a cake looks like frosted heroin. 

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Papa John’s Pizzas, Air Greenland, Heineken, Dell and E-Harmony (an online dating agency). 

Coarse language

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has some coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an action adventure movie that will appeal to older children and teenagers as well as adults. The cinematography in the movie is visually stunning, particularly the filming on location in Iceland.

The movie has several scary scenes that are likely to be too disturbing for children under eight years and even some older children. Because of this, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t recommended for children under eight years, and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 8-12 years.

The main message from this movie is that life is much more fun if you actually live it rather than dreaming about it.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include friendship and loyalty. The movie also emphasises getting out of your ‘comfort zone’ and making the most of life.

This movie could give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues, such as bullying. For example, Ted is a nasty bully who takes pleasure in putting other people down. Walter doesn’t handle this situation well at first, but he learns better ways of dealing with it.