Saturday, April 19, 2014

Walter Mitty Returns

By David Luhrssen
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Ben Stiller must be a fan of Danny Kaye; perhaps that explains his 2013 remake of Kaye’s 1947 comedy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Older Baby Boomers (and their parents) will remember when “Walter Mitty” was a familiar pop culture adjective—the timid man whose life is vivid only in fantasy. Younger moviegoers will be forgiven for mistaking Walter for a character from a failed network sitcom they never got around to watching. Lack of recognition is one explanation for the remake’s tepid box office.

Also, the new Walter Mitty, out now on Blu-ray and DVD, just isn’t that great a film. However, the spotty comedy has a couple of things going for it. One: Stiller plays the deadpan, awkward man in the title role, whose “Send a Wink” clicks on eHarmony are rejected because he left blank the been there, done that, sections of his profile. Turns out he’s never been anywhere or done anything except in his mind’s eye. Second: the pathos of Mitty’s workplace. He’s a “negative assets manager” at Life magazine, which is being killed under the direction of a callow yet arrogant young professional jerk-off with a not-so-deceptively bland title, “Manager of Transition.” In an anxious world of whitecollar downsizing, the funny reality of those workplace scenes is much more arresting than the (deliberately?) cheesy CGI of Mitty’s fantasies.

The remake also stars Kristen Wiig as the woman of Mitty’s dreams. He must conquer the world (or at least fly to Greenland) to measure up to her brave, adventurous ideal of manhood.

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