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Ben Stiller serious, strong as Walter Mitty

  • Ben Stiller in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." This is Stiller's fifth time directing, but it's his boldest move toward establishing his career behind the camera. The actor-director talks to Associated Press about his Walter Mitty-esque dreams to expand himself as a filmmaker. (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Wilson Webb)

Marketed as Ben Stiller's bend toward drama, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” finds the actor, who also directed the feature, seemingly exuding super-human strength while jumping between buildings and battling his nemesis as they surf asphalt.

The lampoon-like scenarios seem far too fanciful when attempting to take Stiller seriously. But these are just the narratives the title character weaves in his mind. In reality, Walter Mitty, played by a poised and sincere Stiller, is an insecure photo editor with an affinity for daydreaming.

Adapted from a short story of the same name, which was written by James Thurber and was published in 1939 in the New Yorker, the outlandish scenes in “Mitty” bring the most memorable element of the original tale — reality bending — to the forefront. Thurber's sarcastic narrative found Walter Mitty at odds with his bickering wife and escaping his humdrum life by daydreaming he was a war hero, surgeon and sharp shooter. The first rendering of “Mitty,” which maintained Thurber's comedic tone, was realized on film in 1947. It starred Danny Kaye, who this time, battled with an overbearing mother.

Written by Steven Conrad, the contemporary rendition, in which Jim Carey was originally supposed to star, sees the real world altered with such wild inflection that it's hard to digest. Visual techniques like interspersing the text of the opening credits into Walter's surroundings, prove to be the most innovative and clever effect of the picture. Luckily, the CGI-marred moments flood only the first 30 minutes of the film, allowing for a loaded, inspiring experience familiar to other serious Conrad works like “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

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