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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller (New Line Cinema)


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty never cracked the Top 5 weekly box office performers when it was in theaters. Yet most people who saw the film liked it, giving it a B+ CinemaScore (a poll of exiting theatergoers). Now that the film is available at home, more families should find this gem.

Rated PG, the film is not faithful to James Thurber’s 1939 New Yorker short story. That was a sad tale about a sad man, lost in heroic daydreams yet ineffectual in real life. Ben Stiller’s film (he both directs and stars) is far more hopeful.

Stiller surprises viewers—and subverts Hollywood’s clichéd emphasis on individuality-at-all-costs—in three other ways. First, we get some of Walter’s backstory, which helps us understand why he’s stuck in his shell. Surprisingly, it’s not because some authority figure (a parent, a priest, a teacher) was “mean” to him—but because he lost his father (whom he loved!) at a young age, and took on the burden of caring for his family.

Second, Walter’s quest may be launched by his love for a woman (Kristen Wiig), but his goal is actually related to his work. Walter is good at his job as a “negative asset manager” for Life magazine and is committed to finding a lost negative from Life’s best photographer (Sean Penn in his most appealing character since—ever?). Walter has a nasty new boss but cares enough about his work to keep his commitment to doing it well.

I won’t say much about the last reason—it would spoil the ending—but it’s both fascinating and refreshing that on some level the film celebrates the man Walter was before his transformation.

The film is not perfect—Walter’s transformation happens too fast and some character development is weak; also, there is some mild bad language and innuendo. But Walter Mitty has humor, adventure, fantasy, stunning images, great music, and more than a few genuinely touching moments. My family covers the range from ages 7-37. I suspect we will not be alone in finding delight in this small, underappreciated film.


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  • Estel's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    I"ve been looking for a newer, decent movie to watch with my family for quite a while. We enjoyed this one--thanks for the suggestion!

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    We were surprised at how good this was though it was not flawless in language content. My bride read Ted Baehr review and we got it at the local Red Box. Not a disappointmt. I might even wind up buying it via amazon.

  • GTPman
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    I admit I cringed on finding Sean Penn had a role but his presence was mercifully short and subdued.  The film was worth watching, having little offensive language and no unfortunate, but usually expected, bed scenes.  There came a point when one wondered if Mitty's flights to find his photographer were just flights of fancy.  The resulting breaking out of character was engaging and mostly satisfying.  Overall a very nice film.

  •  nevertheless's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    It is without doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen, and at the end the guy gets the girl (lol).

  • NitroBob
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    Two thumbs up!  We saw the movie when it came out in the theater around Christmas and it ranks at the top of my personal favorite list.  The show tells a very good story (one that I can relate to on at least a couple of levels) and Ben Stiller's performance immediately draws you in.  I highly recommend the film.

  • tpsands
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:13 pm

    I agree 100%. I saw it twice in the theatres and have watched it several times since getting it on disc. I have both soundtracks and listened to Ben Stiller's narration of the actual Thurber story from (it's free). It is one of the most refreshing, humble, down-to-earth-average-guy recent releases in a long time.