The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the 2013 version with Ben Stiller, was fun and adventurous and a flat-out great movie. I watched this movie a few nights ago with my entire family (that includes me, my wife, and four kids ages 9, 11, 22, and 24), and I’m happy to report that all 6 of us thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’m the oldest of the bunch so I did the duty of explaining to everyone else that this was a remake of a classic movie. I explained to everyone that the original was a story about a man who escapes his boring life through his vivid imagination, living out all sorts of fantasies in his mind. I looked up the original on imdb.com and found that it was made in 1947 and starred Danny Kaye. For those of you who like to compare the old to the new, here is the original movie trailer for that classic version.
The new version with Ben Stiller stays true to the vague description that I mentioned above, but it apparently tells a completely different story than the original, based on the description given in the movie trailer and the text description at imdb.com. So, for you older fans of the original, get ready for a very different tale. However, for everyone else, you’ll find that the new version contains enough light-hearted magic of its own to be well worth two hours of your time. Ben Stiller’s “lovable loser” character that he plays in almost every movie fits perfectly here as Walter Mitty. The story-line of his character’s journey from an obscure nobody to a true adventurer is so well done that it’s actually more interesting than the fantasies that we witness. Not that the fantasy sequences aren’t great. They are well done for sure, but those sequences are more like icing on the cake here. In my opinion, the true magic of this new version of Walter Mitty is that it gives us a simple story that we can all identify with, about a character that we can’t help but care about, and we get to watch him go around the world on his personal journey.
This new version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty opened during Christmas week of 2013, a time on the calendar that is typically reserved for the year’s biggest movies expected to rake in big money from holiday movie goers. This new Walter Mitty turned out to be a disappointment at the box office, grossing much less than it’s 90 million dollar budget. I don’t know what the experts are saying, but my take is that the majority of those who still go to movie theaters these days had no idea that Walter Mitty was a remake of a classic, and if they did know the name they probably didn’t care. The marketing machine of Twentieth Century Fox needed to do a better job of telling today’s audiences that they needed to see this movie just because it’s a great movie … period. I think they depended way too much on the connection to a classic movie that few people remember. That’s too bad. I hope Ben Stiller’s Mitty will find new life through DVD rentals. It’s truly a great movie. All six in my family agreed that it was one of the best movies we’d seen in a long time. That’s why I’m recommending that parents should fantasize about watching a new big-budget movie with their kids and enjoying it just as much as the kids do. One of the few movies that can bring that fantasy to life is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.