A remake of 1947’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of those grand Hollywood aspirations that never managed to materialize. The project was passed through the hands of some very accomplished directors: Spielberg, Howard, Verbinski. But none ever got this film off the ground. So who in this day and age, pray tell, is so capable, so ambitious, so artistically poignant as to not merely take this movie on as director, but also as its star performer? The same man who double-headed Zoolander: Ben Stiller.
As an actor, Stiller has his techniques. He’s got the timid shlub good-guy and the machismo-epitomized antagonist. Somewhere in between, he occasionally lands on the vapid, self-centered priss for whom we eventually decide to root. As a director—and I might not be in vast amounts of company here—I’ve always found him to be surprisingly adept. Reality Bites is the move I always wished I was old enough to appreciate when it was relevant. The Cable Guy is amazing (stop shaking your head; it’s amazing). And Heat Vision and Jack is way too good for anyone to have ever heard of it (a little Google searching can uncover that one).
So, this new project is not without its promise. The story visualizes the title character’s imagination, in which he invests himself in order to escape, if only briefly at a time, his unhappy life. However (as is the glory of film), his daydreams begin to invade reality: so we’re looking at something in the vein of either Bedtime Stories or Stranger than Fiction. Let’s aim for the latter, Stiller.