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Warning: This review contains mild spoilers, but really, if you want a spoiler-free review of a re-imagining of a classic old movie based on a notable story from even earlier, grow up. For the absolute beginner, the story, originally by the esteemed James Thurber, involves Walter Mitty who has all the social skills of dish towel.
In the 2013 version, Life Magazine (of which Walter is an employee) is about to go all digital, leaving him, several friends and co-workers, and the object of his newfound affections dangerously close to being fired. One of the nicer aspects of the film is that, even with the zip-bang special effects of the first quarter, the shots and the overall look becomes ever more beautiful as Walter drifts into the real, abandoning the bold but fake daydreams.
The movie is PG, but is surprisingly mature in that the viewer feels that without the allusions, visions, and goings-on, these could be real people (except, maybe, for Scott’s broad antagonist, but he had to be so, and is therefore, perfect for that role). Ben Stiller directs and stars in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the story of a lowly photo editor with big dreams — specifically, daydreams. He has just fallen into a hard-crush for an acquaintance, and his frequent lapses into fantasy daydreaming are becoming more and more distracting.

Directed with obviously loving intentions, Stiller is much more restrained than one would presume. She could be in a movie where she was a lunatic who sets pandas and koalas on fire and I’d still find her thoroughly adorable. I realize that a lot of people will be turned off by the symbolism, and yes a lot of it may be heavy-handed.
In the end, for all of my personally held caveats emptor, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty delivers an antidote to the sugar rush cinema of late, without abandoning the fantastic.
The movie costars Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, and some truly breathtaking scenery. They include my longstanding belief that movies based on older movies is mostly a terrible idea floated by only the laziest moviemakers. It should be noted that this sort of remake had been a purported pet project of Steven Spielberg’s for many years, and there are surface similarities to a Spielberg production, Joe Versus The Volcano.

I am, quite shockingly, uplifted by its simple message of being a part of this life versus being apart from it. Also, nobody has the right or talent to remake anything Danny Kaye or James Stewart once was in. Finally, much as every Tom Cruise movie is Tom Cruise versus a character played by Tom Cruise, all Ben Stiller really seems to know how to play is Ben Stiller.
Both are, at heart, romantic comedies that play with fantasy elements, if not lapsing into magical realism entirely. In the movie, the character handles Life’s photo negatives, making him the Negative Asset Manager, when his character does nothing but manage his negatives.

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