Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on December 27, 2013
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is based very loosely on a James Thurber short story. As a lover of old films, I fondly remember the Danny Kaye version from the 40s, which was also kind of loosely based on said short story. What the two movies have in common is that they focus on a mild-mannered man who lives his life of adventure through his own very imaginative daydreams. From there they diverge quite a bit. The new version directed by and starring Ben Stiller is not content with Walter’s fantasies remaining in the realm of the imagination. It turns the story into a very 21st century personal growth, action hero flick. Walter starts off as the same milquetoast kind of nice guy, but inspired by his unrequited love for a co-worker, he becomes the man of his dreams.
There are two threads running through the film. Walter has a big crush on his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wigg) but he’s too shy to talk with her, so he joins an online dating site, which he overheard her say she was on. Simultaneously, the company they work for, Life magazine, is about to be “transitioned” and everyone is worried for their jobs, and Walter has lost the negative that is supposed to be the final cover photo. So somehow he works up the courage to talk with Cheryl about the negative and her advice (and the fact that the guy from the dating service points out that his profile has nothing in the “where have you been” and “what have you done sections”) sends him on a real life, globe trotting adventure to find the photographer (Sean Penn) who shot the photo and might know what happened to the negative.
It’s not a great movie, but the adventure is a very nice travelogue, and there are some funny bits. It is entertaining and is fine for the whole family. I went with a 16-year-old and an 88-year-old and no one fell asleep. In a lot of ways the film is a Ben Stiller vanity film. He skateboards and escapes from an erupting volcano; he jumps out of a helicopter and battles a shark; he treks through rebel territories and gets the girl. It’s one of those films I’d call pleasant. It is not terribly memorable, but while you’re watching it, you are entertained.
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