The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: What You Need To Know
Some 75 years after James Thurber’s daydreaming fantasist first appeared in a short story published in The New Yorker, next week sees the UK release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Blu-Ray and DVD. Here’s everything you need to know…
Who’s in it?
Ben Stiller both directs and stars in what is the second film adaptation of Thurber’s story, following Norman Mcleod’s 1947 film of the same name starring Danny Kaye. This time around, Stiller takes the lead role as the hapless Walter, while Kristen Wiig co-stars as his co-worker and love interest Cheryl Melhoff. Elsewhere there are also appearances from Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn, as well as Sean Penn, who appears as elusive photographer Sean O’Connell.
What’s the plot?
Walter works at Time Inc.’s publishing offices managing the photographic archives for Life magazine, where the meek and mild-mannered Mitty has a habit of escaping from his mundane day-to-day life by allowing himself to be absorbed into fantasies so vivid they border on the hallucinogenic. These include him diving from a subway platform through a glass window to save a cat from a burning building and being an exotic mountain explorer, who arrives inexplicably in the office to woo his colleague Cheryl. However, even in his fantasies he fails, and back in the real world his problems are mounting up.
When it is announced that Life magazine will be closing its print operation and moving entirely online, Walter’s job, as well as those of his colleagues, is on the line. For their final issue, the magazine will use a photograph taken and chosen by iconic photographer Sean O’Conell, but there’s a problem: the negative for the photo in question has gone missing.
Under pressure from his slick but idiotict manager Ted Hendricks (Scott), who believes Walter is holding back the photograph deliberately, Walter determines to find the missing negative, a decision that takes him on a real life adventure that even his imagination couldn’t conjure up, one that finds him jumping out of helicopters, climbing volcanoes and searching for the elusive photographer to solve the mystery of what happened to the missing negative.
Does it deliver?
Despite receiving a bit of a kicking from critics when it was released in the cinema last year, audiences seemed to love it and the film did very handsomely at the box office. The lukewarm reception is, in part, understandable: Stiller is known for the kind of comedy that often veers into silliness and sometimes there is a tendency to assume that any film featuring his name on the credits will be of the same ilk.
However, his adaptation of Thurber’s classic anti-hero story is well handled, well acted and absorbing, and as one of the more unusual film concepts in recent years it’s well worth a look for anyone who enjoys big budget movies but fancies something a little bit different. Stiller’s portrayal manages to offer glimpses of the darker side of Mitty’s character without dwelling on it and the result is a film which many people, especially the daydreamers among us, can really relate to.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is available from hmv stores on Blu-Ray & DVD from Monday April 21st