The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a rare remake worth the retread. Ben Stiller offers a film with important themes for our generation that never fails to entertain thanks to a fantastic cast.
Stiller stars as the titular character in a moment of crisis. Walter Mitty has worked at Life magazine for 20 years as the manager of negative assets, a role in which he processes the photographers’ celluloid. When the magazine announces it will convert to an entirely online version, Walter finds himself obsolete except in one final, important capacity. A famous photographer personally sent Walter the celluloid meant for the final cover of Life magazine. This is also the first celluloid in 20 years that Walter can’t find in the delivery package. With nothing to lose, Walter sets out to find the photographer, played by Sean Penn in a small but surprisingly funny turn, and determine what happened to the photo.
Some of the most entertaining parts of the film are the constant diversions into Mitty’s daydreams. These comedic set pieces offer a break from the somewhat heavy plot. They allow us into Mitty’s mind, and for a man who hasn’t lived a lot, his imagination is wild. A particular favourite is a fantasy fight scene between Walter and a heavily bearded Adam Scott, in which the two unlikely action stars hurtle through the streets of New York in a superhero-inspired sequence.
Stiller reveals his dramatic side as the lonely, middle-aged Mitty, while still being funny enough to be likeable. Kristen Wiig plays Walter’s down-to earth coworker, with whom Walter hopes to start a romantic entanglement, if he can only work up the courage. Luckily for the audience, she frequently appears in Walter’s daydreams, providing some of the film’s funniest moments.
The film is based on a 1939 short story by James Thurber that was first adapted to film in 1947. Stiller’s version is updated and brought into the modern world with considerable ease, largely because Walter Mitty is such a great character. He’s the dreamer who discovers what life is all about. What better story exists for cinema? The movie offers an important message for all of us: don’t get so caught up in your life that you don’t really live; break away from your patterns and follow your dreams. The beauty of film is that we can experience these stories over and over on the screen, whereas living this kind of story only happens once.
Ben Stiller can be proud of this film, which easily and expertly shifts between dramatic and comedic while capturing some of the world’s beauty in stunning cinematography. In a modern Hollywood scene that tends to focus on the darker sides of life, Walter Mitty is a refreshing film well worth watching. MMMM½