Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – DVD review 4/5 Stars
We all daydream, Walter Mitty just does it a little more than others. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a 1939 short story from James Thurber that first appeared in The New Yorker. There have been two film adaptations, the first being made in 1947 starring Danny Kaye and now again in 2013 starring Ben Stiller. I saw the trailer for the newer film and was immediately interested. Missing it in theatres, I decided to watch the original version while waiting patiently for the remake to come to DVD. I’ve now seen both films, and while they are altogether different they are both very entertaining.
In 1947 Walter Mitty works as a writer/editor of pulp magazines who loses himself in the stories, showcasing vivid daydreams that play off of Danny Kaye’s singing, dancing and acting talents. Dealing with a domineering mother and fiancee, Walter takes frequent refuge in his daydreams; he’s a ship captain on a story sea, a world famous surgeon, a lover, a cowboy, a WWII flying ace, and maybe even a spy? Through a confusion of circumstances, Walter is thrust into a world of espionage as he tries to save a girl from foreign agents. Unfortunately nobody believes him, and he even begins to doubt himself. Can meek Walter find the courage that he has in his dreams to save the day?
The film was quite fun and definitely used the most of its star’s talents, and the dream sequences were quite well played out with their minimalist sets.
In 2013 Walter Mitty works in the negative department of Life magazine, and often loses himself in the pictures taken for the articles. Walter is very good at his job and has handled the magazine’s top photographer’s pictures expertly for many years. Walter has lived a very quiet life. His online dating page has no hits because he has had nothing to fill his profile with. The only reason he actually signed up was because he wanted to meet his co-worker Cheyrl (Kristen Wiig) who he overheard used the site. As Walter continues to daydream through the routines that are his life, we discover that Life magazine is shutting down and becoming Life “online”. Top photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) has the perfect picture for the final cover and has sent it to Walter to present. Unfortunately the critical negative is missing from the roll of film. To save the day Walter must track down the globe trotting photographer based only on a few clues from Sean’s existing shots. Walter may have explored the Arctic in his dreams but how will he handle things when the clues lead him to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas?
With movies like The Watch and now Walter Mitty, I’m starting to become a Ben Stiller fan, though the entire cast was excellent. The “dream sequences” were all well done, especially the fight sequence with the obnoxious executive through the streets of New York over Walter’s Stretch Armstrong (it was a birthday gift from his sister (Kathryn Hahn)). The running commentary from Todd (Patton Oswalt), the online dating site’s specialist assigned to Walter’s profile, was really a nice touch and I think helped you realize that Walter’s “secret life” was quickly becoming a realization. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wasn’t just funny, but a lot of fun as we got to follow along with Walter’s journey of self discovery and awakening.
Bottom Line: neither film was very faithful to the original short story, except for the idea of a fantastic dreamer living through his mundane life; though the way the original 1947 integrated and initiated Walter’s daydreams was a little closer to the story.