'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' Polarizes Critics After Debut

Ben Stiller's 'Walter Mitty' Divides Critics

Twentieth Century Fox premiered Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" at the New York Film Festival on Saturday afternoon, with a simultaneous screening held in Los Angeles for West Coast journalists and critics. The film, which Stiller directed and based on James Thurber's 1939 New Yorker short story, left the critical community divided like few releases thus far this year.

"The film's pleasures may be too minor-key and its pace too meandering to conquer the mainstream," wrote David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter. "But audiences willing to tune in to its blend of surreal fantasy, droll comedy and poignancy will be rewarded."

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" stars Stiller as the title character, a LIFE magazine negative asset manager (a.k.a. photo editor) who retreats to day dreams to escape the confines of his mild-mannered life. After a corporate takeover puts the magazine on death's door (a vicious Adam Scott plays the film's main antagonist), Mitty is forced to live out his fantasies while hunting for a missing negative from the periodical's ace photographer (Sean Penn) that will be used for the final LIFE cover. (Steve Conrad's script takes Mitty from midtown Manhattan to Iceland, Greenland and even Afghanistan.) Kristen Wiig (as Mitty's literal dream girl), Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn and Patton Oswalt round out the supporting cast.

After the New York Film Festival screening, Stiller, Wiig, Conrad and production designer Jeff Mann and producer John Goldwyn participated in a Q&A session about "Walter Mitty," which was first turned into a film by Danny Kaye in 1947.

"I didn't want to attempt to do that," Stiller, who came onto "Walter Mitty" after it was in development for years, said about the Kaye version of the story. "What was exciting for me was that Steve took this idea [and kept] the spirit of the original story, and the character Thurber created, which is an obviously iconic character."

Whether Conrad and Stiller actually succeeded at that is what critics and bloggers hashed out on Twitter in the minutes and hours after the screenings. Below, a round-up of the early, polarizing "Walter Mitty" Twitter reactions (more on the film from HuffPost Entertainment senior writer Mike Ryan can be found here).

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is out in theaters on Christmas Day.

I like the passion of Walter Mitty. @RedHourBen clearly poured a lot into it.

— Kristopher Tapley (@kristapley) October 5, 2013

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty": sweet, earnest, an Arcade Fire montage and Adam Scott as the year's best villain #nyff

— Christopher Rosen (@chrisjrosen) October 5, 2013

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY: This schmaltzy conflict-free dramedy tries desperately to say something, but is surprisingly hollow. #NYFF

— Sean Hutchinson (@SSEEEAAANN) October 5, 2013

Requisite Secret Life of Walter Mitty review tweet: A sweet film w/a great soundtrack & beautiful cinematography. Nothing more, nothing less

— Alex Suskind (@AlexJSuskind) October 5, 2013

"Walter Mitty" is a moving elegy for the heyday of magazines, as well as a sweet, funny fable about living to the fullest. #NYFF

— Mike Hogan (@mike_hogan) October 5, 2013

I really, really liked THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. A grand adventure. And good for Stiller with his pet project turning out so well.

— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 5, 2013

I do feel WALTER MITTY will play better with people closer to 40 than people closer to 25.

— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) October 5, 2013

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