“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which Ben Stiller directs and stars in, has taken a lot of flack by the press in recent days as being too boring and mundane. I saw the movie this weekend, and I thought quite the opposite: First of all, the crux of the short story which was written by James Thurber and first featured in the New Yorker in 1939, is supposed to be about a man whose life existence is dull and boring, and who uses daydreaming as a vehicle for escapism. Secondly, the movie is a fantasy ─ not every film has to be based on a true story and nitpicked and dissected as if it was were.
Our modern day Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) works in the photo development department for Life Magazine, which is about to be downsized by a group of geeky, bearded clones wearing suits, and led by a smirking boss (Adam Scott) who you would just love to slap in the face. Life magazine is going on-line, but will produce one more hard copy that will feature a cover photo by the famous lone star photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). When Mitty receives the negatives for the magazine cover in the mail, negative 25, the one that is to be used as the cover photo, he discovers that it is missing. Despite having been fired by his boss, Mitty decides to depart his mundane world and disembarks on an adventure which brings him to Greenland, Iceland, and ultimately Afghanistan, to search for O’Connell and the missing photo.
The lead up to the adventure is a series of daydreams that Mitty has while trying to eke out an existence. He imagines romancing a co-worker (Kristen Wiig); having a super hero-like battle with his boss; and leaping into a burning building to save a three-legged dog, amongst other things. Shirley MacLaine has a bit part as Mitty’s doting mother and Kathyn Hahn plays Mitty’s actress aspiring sister. The scenery which in large part was shot in Iceland is gorgeous. There is some blatant product placement (Papa Johns and E-harmony), but we have come to expect this in the movies. All in all, I think it was a fun ride. Use your imagination; isn’t this what it is all about?
Reviewers Notes: Danny Kaye first played Walter Mitty in the “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in a 1947 movie.
My Rating: 3 of 5 Daydreams.