While many films stand the test of time, others fade into obscurity. Whether this happens over a period of years or almost instantly upon a film’s release, one thing is clear: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has slipped through the cracks of our collective memory to join the ranks of the Films That Time Forgot.

Despite a stellar cast and an intriguingly turbulent production, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been all but forgotten. A remake of the 1947 film of the same name (itself adapted from James Thurber’s 1939 short story), it should have been a film with an instant platform. So why exactly did the 2013 adventure film make so small a splash?

It’s not for lack of star power, that’s for sure. Directed by and starring Ben Stiller in the title role, Walter Mitty also features Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, and Kathryn Hahn in a cast with both comedic and dramatic potential. It follows Walter (Stiller) as he sets off to find a famous photographer (Penn) after learning the magazine he works for is closing down.

It’s a film that’s bristling with imagination, with Walter’s innermost fantasies giving way to a genuine adventure. However, it polarized critics upon release, and then was swiftly forgotten. However, upon rewatching, the problem is clear: whether it’s a good film or a bad one, it simply isn’t memorable.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Has Lofty Inspirational Goals, But Still Falls Short

Ben Stiller and Sean Penn with a camera in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

It’s a film that wears its themes on its sleeve. It’s all about living life fearlessly and without regret, embracing adventure and friendship. Stiller brings that notion to life pretty well – peppered with gently comedic moments though it is – but the real problem is that it simply doesn’t do its job.

In many ways, Walter Mitty is a beautiful film that makes use of some wonderful imagery. Unfortunately, it just isn’t deep enough for any of it to really mean anything. There’s no symbolism, no deeper meaning to connect to. It takes one very simple idea and stretches it over a film, and though it’s well made, it’s so shallow as to be enitrely forgettable.

The performances of its cast are commendable, as is the central message, but there’s simply nothing more to it. It’s satisfying enough in its way, but it lacks any real bite, which dulls the power of its narrative considerably. Though it’s not a bad film, it’s clear why it was so swiftly forgotten: simply put, it’s incredibly forgettable.

Rating: 55%

Summary: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a heartwarming but surprising shallow film. The lack of depth feels like wasted potential, though it’s still well worth a watch.

Highlight: Kristen Wiig’s rendition of Space Oddity. It’s as unexpected as it is touching, and also proves to be the turning point for Walter’s story.