Earlier this week, I attended an advance screening of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".
For myself and those who went with me, it was a very moving film.
It seemed like the rest of the audience loved it too.
If the title sounds familiar, Ben Stiller's new film, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", is not the first to carry that title. Based on the popular short story by James Thurber which also inspired radio and stage plays, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was first made into a film in 1947 starring that comedic American treasure Danny Kaye as a pulp fiction magazine editor who shared the common trait of all Walter Mitty stories, a habit for vivid daydreaming to escape a mundane life.
In that older film, Mitty's life changes when a mysterious woman enters into the picture and makes his real life as interesting as his fantasies. The new film is a bit different, but in a way, so much better! While the Kaye film is a fantastic comedy (it's been far too long since I've seen it; it was a fave of mine when I was a kid), the Ben Stiller movie, which Stiller also directed, is more along the lines of... well, let me put it this way, I hope we see some Oscar nods for this one.
In the new film, Stiller plays Mitty as a lifelong employee for Life Magazine. He's a man who has spent years developing the photographs taken by their top photographer, the elusive, adventurous and worldly Sean O'Connell (played by Sean Penn). Though they have never met, the two have become great friends through their correspondence, and O'Connell's photographs from around the world serve as a great inspiration for the wild and amazing fantasies Walter has all the time, sometimes at the worst times, and often involving a new co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), a single mom whom Walter finds so attractive that he has joined the same dating site as her in the hopes of making a connection.
The big moment in Walter's life comes when his job and the jobs of his friends are on the line due to a company takeover. Life Magazine is suddenly going fully digital, and the magazine is about to print its last real issue. This makes the final cover photo an extremely big deal, and Sean has sent Walter an extremely special photo to use for it. It's the quintessential Life cover photo, but the negative turns up missing! With very little time and everything on the line, Walter must go forth into the world on a real-life adventure of his own to track down Sean and find the all-important photo.
It's an adventure that will change Walter Mitty's life forever, and possibly yours too. At the very least, it will stir powerful emotions within most viewers who can relate to this character at all, or who are at least able to lose themselves in a beautifully crafted film.
I am simply amazed that this beautiful, artfully executed and passionately created film is the work of Ben Stiller as director, a man we usually associate with delightfully oddball comedies like "There's Something About Mary" and "Mystery Men". This is a completely different kind of film. And when I say this film makes me think of Academy Award nominations, I don't mean it is depressing and drama filled. It is a light-hearted, yet powerful film. It can be summed up in one word: "Inspiring". It's a movie about life and not letting it pass you by. It doesn't judge you, but it reminds you. It doesn't anger you, it inspires you. It gives you hope, too, that it's never too late to live. This is an amazing film, and it's one that should be celebrated. I hope it gets the attention and success it deserves. When this one is released on Christmas Day, get out there and go see it! I doubt you'll leave with dry eyes.