Ben Stiller may be known mainly as a funnyman to mainstream audiences, but the indie film crowd knows the “Zoolander” star is a perfectly capable thespian in any genre. Stiller’s most notable portrayals of layered, dramatic characters are as Michael Grates in “Reality Bites,” the grieving widower Chas in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and as the titular Roger Greenberg in Noah Baumbach’s 2012 dramedy, “Greenberg.” All of these performances earned the movie star accolades from the discerning critical mass, as did his two latest projects as a director, “Zoolander” and “Tropic Thunder.” Both of the satirical films were well received with the latter even earning an Oscar nomination. Now it appears Stiller is aiming even more squarely at the Academy with the Christmas Day release of his latest directorial effort, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”
Part adventure, part drama, part comedy, Stiller’s latest also appears to be his most visually inventive project yet. Set to Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws,” the outstanding trailer silently chronicles the day to day life of a Life magazine reporter (get it?) who yearns for more than the mundane. While some scenes appear entirely fictitious — such as when a bearded, ice-climbing version of Stiller walks out of a mural in his office’s hallway — others blur the line between fantasy and reality. We see Walter jump onto a departing helicopter, skateboard down a sloped country road, and leap towards a boat only to land well short of his target. It’s safe to say “Walter Mitty” appears to be going for more than just the laugh.
The film costars Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig, Shirley Maclaine, and Patton Oswalt. Though its commercial prospects are high with Twentieth Century Fox behind it and a holiday release date on the docket, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” could also turn out to be one of the winter’s serious awards contenders. After all, if Stiller can get an Oscar nod out of this, he should have no trouble scoring a few for more dramatic fare…right? Take a look at the trailer below and judge for yourself.