Plot: What’s it about?
I vaguely remember sitting in English class reading the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. All I really remember is that he daydreamed and lived a dull and melancholic life. Flash forward a quarter of a century and I’m watching Ben Stiller star and direct a film by the same name. It’s been done before (the movie, that is) in 1947 by Danny Kaye and author James Thurber evidently wasn’t too flattered with the adaptation. I also recently watched Stiller’s directorial debut – Reality Bites, a very special movie to me and one that really put him on the map as both an actor and director. Stiller has gone onto a fine film career and has shown that he’s got range on both sides of the camera. So I, essentially knowing nothing about his new film, had this sitting on my “to be reviewed” pile for a few days longer than I should have. And now I regret it. Because, you see, I absolutely adored this movie.
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) lives a humdrum life where he’s the negative editor at Life Magazine. Life’s end is near and a new team of young executives, led by Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) are seeing the transition from the printed version to it’s new, uh, “life” as a digital edition. Walter has had a rapport with noted eccentric photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) for quite some time and Sean has sent him what he considers to be his best picture. The only problem is…it’s missing. Sensing that without this photo, Walter will lose his job, he high tails it to Greenland (where Sean’s last check was sent). However as Walter tries to track down the negative, he inadvertently starts to do something he’s not really done – live! He jumps out of ships, skateboards down volcanoes and starts to really find himself. Gone is the meek person who was afraid to tell off his boss or ask our his co-worker (Kristen Wiig). Walter finally starts to realize that life is out there and it’s his for the taking.
In a way, we’re all Walter Mitty’s. There are very few of us that embrace what life hands us and instead we just accept it as it comes. What I enjoyed so much about the film is that it embodies exactly what makes movies great to begin with – it’s an escape! Very few of us are going to rappel down Mt. Everest or jump out of an airplane and that’s what makes films like this so entertaining. Walter Mitty represents what most of us are – and what we can only hope to be. Stiller, best-known for his work as a comedic actor, is an ideal choice for Mitty and he gives a great, if rather reserved performance. Granted he’s surrounded by a great ensemble cast, but it’s really Stiller’s movie in every way, shape and form. I’ll close by saying that in the “art imitates life” department, my wife and I actually met via match.com with a “wink” in which she sent me. I can only imagine how much different my life would have been had she not done that. Go forth and embrace your lives!
Video: How’s it look?
Beautiful. Stunning. Extravagant! Need I say more? I guess Fox probably wants me to. The 2.40:1 AVC HD encoded image is perfection. Literally there is nothing wrong with the way this looks on Blu-ray. I found no errors at all. Detail is amazing. Take a look at the forehead wrinkles on Sean Penn. Take a look at the tilt-shift effect in some of the scenes. The skies, the Earth – everything is so real you feel like you can reach out and touch it. Colors are warm and satiated and even the oceans of Greenland have a sense about them. I can go on, but I won’t – this is an amazing transfer from beginning to end.
Audio: How’s it sound?
While not quite the example of perfection that the video is, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn’t exactly pale by comparison. It’s rich and robust and there were a few scenes that I really craned my neck around and said “Wow.” Yes, really. What really got me were the LFE that chimed in on a few occasions and surrounds were very active as well – particularly during the “brawl with the boss” mid-way through the film. Vocals are strong and centered and the front stage handles the remainder of the mix with ease. Truly this is a very robust mix and one that works particularly well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fox has wisely loaded this two disc (one DVD and one Blu-ray) down with supplements, so let’s dive in and see what to expect.
- Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes – Broken out into sections for each.
- Behind the Scenes
- The History of Walter Mitty – The original story by James Thurber is discussed as is the 1947 version of the film starring Danny Kaye.
The Look of Life – The crew discussed the idea of using Life magazine and its relevance in this updated version of the film.
The Music of Walter Mitty – Stiller, Composer Theodore Shapiro and Jose Gonzales discuss the music for the movie.
That’s a Shark! – A longer look at the scene in which Stiller encounters the shark in Iceland.
Icelandic Adventure – A look at the locations used for both the Iceland and Greenland scenes.
Nordic Casting – The various actors who played small, but memorable parts in the film are featured.
Titles of Walter Mitty – The opening title sequence uses very discrete titles that are somehow “part” of the buildings and streets. Go back and take a look. This gives us the inspiration behind those credits.
Sights and Sounds of Production
- Skateboarding through Iceland – We see that it’s Ben Stiller on the skateboard, though he’s harnessed if something were to go wrong. A professional takes the lead on the longer shots.
Ted-Walter Fight – We get a look at the epic battle between Ted and Walter.
Ted-Walter Fight Pre-Viz Early Version – A more rudimentary version that’s clearly in the rough stages.