Australian Council on Children and the Media

Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The

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Not recommended under 8; PG to 12 (scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The
  • a review of Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 January 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to scary scenes
Children aged 8 to 12 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes
Children aged 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, action violence, sexual references and coarse language
Length 114 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty tells a story of a man who lives a very ordinary life and lives out his adventures, romances and heroism through daydreams. In this modern version, Walter (Ben Stiller) is the negative asset manager for Life magazine in its final days of printed editions. Walter is secretly in love with co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and tries to contact her through an Internet dating site 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 twelve 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 never would have dreamed of.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Adventure and heroism; workplace bullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

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

  • Walter hears a dog in trouble so he imagines flying off a railway bridge and crashing into an apartment window in order 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 drunk pushes Walter off his seat and appears 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.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • 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 quite scary looking.
  • The sharks in the ocean are quite menacing.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • There are several sudden action scenes that could be quite alarming for children in this age group such as when Walter imagines he’s suddenly turning into a super hero and jumping off bridges etc.
  • There is talk of one of the negatives having blood on it from a gunshot wound.
  • In Walter’s imagination he sees himself kissing Cheryl and telling 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 but misses it and lands in the freezing ocean which is very choppy. He’s seen sinking into the water but he 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 manages to persuade him to get into his car and just as they drive off a volcano erupts. The man has to drive very fast with the volcanic ash rapidly billowing out behind them.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Papa John’s Pizzas
  • Air Greenland
  • Heineken
  • Dell
  • E-Harmony (web dating)

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • 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.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None but there is mention of the fact that the icing on a cake looks like frosted heroin.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Some name calling such as ‘tin man’ and ‘dream machine’
  • sucks
  • arse
  • Oh my God
  • Jesus
  • dick

In a nutshell

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an action adventure movie that will greatly appeal to older children and teens as well as adults. The cinematography in the movie is visually stunning, particularly the filming on location in Iceland. However, the film contains a number of scary scenes which are likely to be too disturbing for under 8s and even some older children, so the film is not recommended for under 8s and parental guidance is recommended for the 8-12 age group.

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 parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • friendship
  • loyalty
  • getting out of your ‘comfort zone’
  • making the most of life

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