Let's start with the pluses first. Stiller's movie looks glorious. In one sequence he is skateboarding along a road in Iceland and for a couple of shots the camera appears to be on the board as we skate along with it. On a big Imax screen it's huge fun to experience. Stiller's bold and confident in his visual choices – the CGI cinematography as he traverses foreign climes, first Greenland, then Iceland, then the Himalayas is most impressive. There's real breadth to the images so we can savour them. And the effects are well deployed. New York streets are ripped up in one fantasy sequence as Stiller and Scott battle each other with fast-moving abandon – and the Big Apple looks very attractive in the sunny hues depicted here.
Now for the minuses. The story is basically a shaggy dog tale that doesn't hold up. As a constant daydreamer with a crush on a fellow worker (Wiig), Stiller's hangdog demeanour is believable enough. And his wild flights of fancy, as his fantasies are played out with cheerful and cheeky flair, are most agreeable. But after the first half hour or so the fantasy life we are shown ceases, as he starts on his journey of self fulfilment to become a man.
His job as a Negative Asset Manager at Life magazine is under threat. What's a Negative Asset Manager you ask? Basically, he looks after the photographic negatives sent in by a famed photojournalist played by Penn. Smarmy Transitions Manager Scott is closing down the print magazine (Life is moving to online-only) and wants the final issue to have an iconic front cover photo – which has, unfortunately, gone missing. Hence the daydreamer's travels abroad to find the haggard old-school photographer, who hasn't yet become internet savvy. The adventure makes a man of the luckless and downtrodden Life employee.
It's all watchable enough, but the wry, wistful tone Stiller infuses the narrative with fails to be persuasive when the story doesn't have the backbone to carry one along with. The attempts at comedy elicit the odd laugh though the humorous elements seem half hearted at best – and one scene paying an homage to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is most odd and miscalculated. It's likeable enough, but in the end it provokes an indifferent shrug rather than a satisfying smile.