The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
I’ve been lucky enough to catch the classic Danny Kaye original The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) which is a marvelous piece of classic cinema and a prime example of MGM’s production values. It is however dated and a product of it’s time. Charming but dated nonetheless. I originally stayed away from Ben Stiller‘s (2013) remake or reinterpretation of the original short story that does actually bring the tale of prolific day-dreamer bang-up to date, or so I thought.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty does rework the idea of a day-dreamer for the 21st century, I’m surprised there haven’t been more versions in the past. However this one feels it was only made possible thanks to massive product placement for Life Magazine and E-Harmony dating site. If only the Stiller could have even slightly altered the names of the companies, both high profile companies. They do however depict a modern world that has gone digital, unlike Kayes publisher of dime novels who is caught up in a sequence of events that make less and less sense as he goes deeper into day-dreams. If only the names had been even slightly changed, they were instead seen as the main funders of this film, without even hiding the fact.
To Stiller’s best efforts the state of mind of daydreaming is shaken off on the second half of the film. There’s an effort to not make this film about the fantasy sequences and more about personal growth as he has to find a missing photographic negative and the girl of his dreams. We retain one classic element which is more reworked, hence the dating website. Its a film aware of the times which makes it more engaging. It does however look too slick and clean at times, too corporate you could say, it is the world that both Mitty (Stiller) and Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) inhabit so its does make sense. When you put that opposite day-dreaming it feels out of place.
Where MGM spent heaps of the production back in 1947, you can see more money has been spent on locations which broadens the appeal of the film. It becomes a journey of self exploration for Mitty as he goes in search of that pesky little negative. We see the day-dreaming have its moment, shook off to focus on the reality of the task at hand. It has the potential to be profound at times without being mushy and patronising until he gets those annoying phone calls from his favourite dating site friend Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt) who for me just kills the moment. He does remind us of what is on Mitty’s mind, I think he’s got more important things to worry about at times.
For me The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is definitely an improvement on the classic which is still watchable and enjoyable. Still it’s nice to see the idea of day-dreaming and being able to focus on what you want in life with a modern perspective. Visually its very crisp, allow the dream-sequence to sparkle, and be larger than life, in a word cinematic. I feel without the hard sell it could have worked all the better with a fictional magazine and dating site to allow the audiences minds to not run far away from the plot. Stiller is an fair update on Danny Kaye who I am not really that familiar with, maybe he;s a little old for the role, but he does bring more experience to it. Whilst Kristen Wiig is just plain underused really which is sad really as she is great in comedy roles. So having put of this film for a year or so, have I really missed out? I did laugh out loud and enjoy myself, it was profound in the right amounts, light enough to get without being stupid, feeling like an indie comedy with a bigger budget. At the end of the day it works with a lot of room for improvement.
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Director Ben Stiller (2013) (awelshmansblog.wordpress.com)