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Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ***

1 of 1 Ben Stiller as our daydreaming but not dreamy hero, Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller as our daydreaming but not dreamy hero, Walter Mitty

Looking for a new movie to check out over Christmas? Ben Stiller stars in this remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Read our review here.

Did I just daydream that? After two hours of Ben Stiller’s gentle and life-affirming retake of James Thurber’s celebrated short story, I was left confused. Had I just witnessed some high-calorie schmaltz or a damn clever tale of personal transformation and the realisation of The American Dream?

Neither way, it's easy to see why this uneven and slghtly tiring Walter Mitty re-take languished in development hell for so long. It does have a few things going for it however, not least of which is Stiller as our daydreaming but not dreamy hero.

He certainly doesn’t mug frenetically like Danny Kaye did in the 1947 movie original. Instead when his Walter zones out for flights of fancy, he looks serene, finally happy to be released from the chore of dealing with the dolts and dead heads he works with on the soon-to-be closed Life magazine.

The long-running standard-bearer of American photo-journalism is about to end its print edition and go online only and Walter is tasked with locating a missing negative from an all-important assignment by a grizzly photographer/adventurer played by Sean Penn.

The misplaced picture is the one which will make the final cover of Life's and Mitty’s desperate search for the vital frame will lead him on a global trek that, shucks, teaches him that fantasy is never any substitute for real-life experience.

However, the lessons to be learned from - quite literally - climbing every mountain are deadening after a while as we traverse the globe - from Greenland to Afghanistan - in search of the elusive photographer but it does give Stiller a chance to capture some very spectacular vistas, leading to the impression that this Walter Mitty is actually working for National Geographic and not Life.

Back at the office, he pines after a pretty co-worker Cheryl, played in a similarly downbeat way by Kristen Wiig and there is something warm and believable about their slow courtship. Adam Scott, with a ridiculously sculpted beard, is great as a corporate jerk brought in to oversee Life's transfer to online and his needling of mild-mannered Walter is fun.

It may be short on actual laughs but it looks gorgeous. Stiller makes some nice points about the value of the physical over the abstract but doesn’t push it too far. It's a glossy, high-concept feel good flick that looks a bit like Life of Pi and has the same big, melancholic heart as Forrest Gump.

Alan Corr

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