Directed by: Ben Stiller
In this new adaptation of James Thurber's short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty it is truthfully not only wildly different than Thurbur’s original tale, it is also quite different than the 1947 film of that name starring Danny Kaye. Not to say that it is a bad film (it is in fact a wonderful film), just to say that it is quite different. In the classic story Mitty is something of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by slipping into a world full of fantasies with him as the heroic, romantic, lead. In this incarnation Mitty (Stiller who also directed), is a negative cutter who works with Life magazine. Unfortunately the staff has just learned that Life has been acquired and is going from a print to an online format, which clearly will result in the elimination of most of their jobs.
Mitty is a massive bundle of insecurities, he is an über-class introvert who “zones out” quite often during the day as he imagines himself in heroic, adventurous, and/or romantic situations that are clearly beyond his ken, He is destined to live his life in obscurity, never to be seen by anyone, or to do anything. That is, until he finally manages to meet and talk to a cute co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig) he has been trying to hook up with in eHarmony (ya got to wonder how much eHarmony paid for this product placement). Well, Walter has this long-standing relationship with Sean O'Connell (Penn) one of Life’s top photographers and has been sent a roll of film which contains the shot for what is slated to be the final cover of Life. Only Walter can’t seem to find the negative for that shot, and his new boss (the head of the transition team), Ted Hendricks (Scott) — who is an epic-level Dick — wants the negative now!
Well, it is this very real and imminent threat that finally galvanizes Walter to action as he hops a plane to track Sean down traveling to Greenland, Iceland, and even Afghanistan in order to secure the photo (although you are left wondering how some guy who has never been anywhere has a passport, much less how he can get into Afghanistan in the first place. Still all of that is secondary to the awe-inspiring nature of the film itself). Needless to say, Walter manages to rack up an impressive string of real-life amazing adventures as he pursues his quest. Again, this isn’t quite the story we read in High School (or the film we saw on late night TV), but it is truly an outstanding film with a killer sound track and a wonderfully uplifting storyline. Go see it, you’ll be happy that you did.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.