Review: ‘Walter’ is at its best when not trying so hard

A lovely and touching third act helps make up for a wobbly, at times convoluted first hour in the quirky fantasy-dramedy “Walter.”

Writer Paul Shoulberg, who expanded the script from his 2010 short film, works too hard to make his characters colorful or idiosyncratic when, given the stylized tale’s sweet center, authentic would have sufficed.

Walter (Andrew J. West), a regimented young man who tears tickets at an Indiana multiplex and still lives with his anxious, eggs-centric (long story) mother (Virginia Madsen), believes he is the son of God. No, not that son; another one. And with great power comes great responsibility: Walter must decide who’s going to heaven and who’s headed for hell. At least that’s the story’s conceit.

The pressure gets too great, however, when the annoying Greg (Justin Kirk), a ghost stuck in a kind of purgatory, shows up demanding Walter send him to heaven or hell before Greg must witness the remarriage of his wife, Allie (Neve Campbell). That Walter’s adored late father (Peter Facinelli) had an affair with Allie emotionally complicates matters for Walter.

Meanwhile, a loopy shrink (William H. Macy) proves of little help to Walter’s plight. What to do?


The movie works best when at Walter’s beloved workplace, where the theater’s doughy manager (Jim Gaffigan), beautiful concession-counter girl (Leven Rambin) and loudmouth swing employee (Milo Ventimiglia) rattle Walter in ways good and bad.

Director Anna Mastro coaxes a sympathetic performance from West, who is tasked with bringing life to a largely unreadable character. That is, until Walter can finally shift gears and the troublesome world around him begins making sense — to himself and to the audience.



MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.