The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Get Busy Living
Directed by its star Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is actually a remake of a 1947 film of the same name. Few people might remember that Danny Kaye vehicle and even fewer are likely to remember the James Thurber short story that inspired both films, which was originally published in 1939. Fortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have remakes and Stiller’s version thrusts the daydreaming hero into a modern-day setting… well, almost modern day.
In the new version, Walter Mitty works in the photo negative department of Life magazine, during its final days as a newsstand product. Walter considers himself to have a simple, boring life, but often drifts away and daydreams about having a more exciting, adventurous life. Currently, most of his daydreams are focused on impressing a co-worker of his whom he would like to ask out, but only has the guts to do so when he is imagining himself as someone more heroic and “noteworthy.”
Fortunately for Walter, the chance to turn his dreams into reality comes when the negative for the photograph that was to be Life’s final cover goes missing. Thrust into action, Mitty travels across the world chasing down the adventurous photographer whom he hopes still has the photo in his possession. Soon he finds himself doing things he previously only imagined possible, like leaping from a hovering helicopter, fighting off a shark, and outrunning an erupting volcano.
The daydream sequences in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are mostly at the beginning of the film and can be a lot of fun. They are usually over-the-top and campy, never letting the audience members forget that they are in Walter’s head, not real life. The movie holds on to these sequences a little too long, however, and the movie suffers a little bit from the delay in getting to the real heart of the story.
Once Walter finally does take a leap in real life—literally—the movie really starts to take shape. Unfortunately, right when the movie is starting to pick up the momentum, it shoots itself in the foot. What keeps Walter Mitty from becoming the great movie that it has the potential to be is the decision of the filmmakers to return Walter back home in the middle of his adventure. Sure, some key plot points are revealed in this sequence, but if the filmmakers could have figured out a way to touch on these plot points while continuing Walter’s adventure, you have to think that the movie would have been that much better for it.
Although I may question some of Ben Stiller’s decisions as the movie’s director, he seems right at home in the role of the title character. Stiller plays the hopeless romantic well, the potential for which was evidenced years ago in There’s Something About Mary. In Mitty, like Mary, his adventure is also inspired by a woman: his co-worker Cheryl. Cheryl is played by Kristen Wiig, who is also good in what is definitely the most straight-forward romantic interest role of her career to date.
There is a lot to like in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but unfortunately a few flaws in its pacing and structure keep it from reaching its true potential.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is rated PG for “some crude comments, language and action violence.” Anything questionable is very minor as this is family-friendly movie.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.