If ever a there were a least likely candidate for a remake it would be The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
However, Ben Stiller has taken a film, which starred comedic legend Danny Kaye and was based on a James Thurber short story, put his spin on it and created something original, fun and emotionally uplifting.
It deftly blends that modernism with older cinematic sensibilities in that Mitty builds toward something as opposed to going for huge superficial action and or moments. Stiller looks for something more substantive, a film that can deliver a subtle, meaningful experience and message and he succeeds famously in delivering that.
Mitty is a wonderful, whimsical trip about what it means to live life and how it’s never really late to do so.
Stiller plays the title character, a negatives archivist for Life magazine, for those who do not know, Life was a magazine known primarily for its spectacular, jaw-dropping photographs. It was oversized, glossy, lush and beautiful and it examined the news of the time with those stunning images.
Nowadays, a magazine such as that would be viewed as quaint. And so it is in the film. It’s so quaint that it’s ceasing publication in a hard copy and is being taken to the Internet, putting Mitty and friends out of a job.
Mitty’s sort of an odd duck. The job loss is tragic for him because Life has been his life. He’s prone to deep daydreaming and he’s never really done much except ensure those negatives were filed where they needed to be. That, however, all changes when the magazine’s primary photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) sends him on a life-affirming and life-changing odyssey.
Yes, Mitty is philosophical, but it’s also all heart. Stiller does his best everyman work on the screen to date as the reclusive Mitty. He takes the character on a journey literally and figuratively that proves surprisingly emotional.
Not enough to make anyone overwrought, but just enough to make the audience enjoy a mutual, lone teardrop at the movie’s end.
That subtlety makes Mitty move a bit slow, but the payoff is definitely worth it. As much as it works emotionally, Stiller also shows a keen eye for filmmaking as he not only takes the audience into Mitty’s daydreams, but opens the screen up to the beauty of the world and the adventure that awaits everyone and anyone.
In a way it’s fitting that the movie opens on Christmas Day because in the end The Secret Life of Walter Mitty provides an emotional lift.
Movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn,
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG for some crude comments, language and action violence.
Running time: 114 minutes
George’s rating: 4-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com