James Thurber’s witty, satirical 1939 masterpiece of short fiction “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was significantly altered as a 1947 comic vehicle for Danny Kaye, but it’s nearly unrecognizable in this latest Ben Stiller produced-directed-starred in opus which takes only the daydreaming motif for the main character and then runs off in entirely new directions. The film has sweetness and earnestness and some fun, too, but it’s way overblown in its tale of a mild-mannered soul coming into his own and really doesn’t offer any surprises for those willing to make the almost two hour journey with him.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 54 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletkeep case in slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/15/2014
Milquetoast Life magazine photographic negative asset handler Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) learns that the magazine is folding its print edition and continuing on as an online service only at the very moment he receives a note from a world class photographer (Sean Penn) that photo #25 in his latest negative roll contains the picture that is the “quintessence of the meaning of life.” Naturally the new boss (Adam Scott) wants to use that picture as the final cover photo, but it’s missing from the reel, so Walter knows he must try to contact the photographer (unreachable by phone and presently in Greenland) to learn what became of the valuable shot. For Walter who’s never left New York, it’s a daunting idea to go globetrotting on this quest to find the photographer, but as his search takes him from Greenland to Iceland to the Himalayas, he finds real life much more satisfying than his frequent daydreams which before were the only things that offered him the chance to be brave, assured, and his own man.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Steven Conrad’s script offers for Walter some early daydreams of valor and glory as the world does its best to beat him down (but in today’s CGI-mad effects world, these daydreams are fairly mild and mildly enjoyable apart from a spot-on but useless parody of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), but that motif disappears within the first half hour as Walter begins his own real-life heroics, some of them outdoing what he was accomplishing with relish in his dreams. Then we get to see the real Walter at work and play, surprisingly adept at a number of things (which make his milquetoast demeanor at the start hard to take or understand). There are three running subplots that Walter is involved with which transpire simultaneously with his quest for the photographer (whose picture #25 couldn’t be more obviously hidden in plain sight and is thus a big letdown in terms of surprise when its location is revealed): a tentative budding romantic relationship with fellow office worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), a running cellphone conversation with a computer dating hotline assistant (Patton Oswalt), and the settling of his mother (Shirley MacLaine) into a new assisted living facility. All of these problematic subplots keep Walter grounded in the real world while offering a smattering of jokes (the Patton Oswalt sequences are the best), but they all feel like padding to the central story of the young man searching for an identity he can claim with surety. Ben Stiller’s direction tends toward overusing the motif of filming Mitty in long shots dwarfed against the awe-inspiring landscapes of the lands where he’s adventuring (Iceland served as the central location for all these scenes, and it’s never looked more majestically beautiful), but a sea adventure has some funny moments, and the travelogue nature of the story takes it far, far away from Thurber’s original tale.
Ben Stiller’s Mitty doesn’t really seem much like the downtrodden, desperate-for-escape loser from the original story, so why the character wasn’t given a name other than the iconic Walter Mitty seems a bit of a puzzle especially since the film’s narrative is going for a completely different set of themes. Kristen Wiig is pleasant but not particularly memorable as the love interest. Adam Scott, on the other hand, is a first-class jerk in all of his scenes even if his climactic comeuppance isn’t quite as satisfying as it might have been. The majority of Patton Oswalt’s performance is delivered over the phone, but he’s still delightful capturing the whimsical quality of the original story better than the film’s star. Shirley MacLaine as Walter’s down-to-earth mother and Kathryn Hahn as his flighty sister do fine within their limited roles.
The film is presented in its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent through most of the presentation with lots of visible detail, and contrast is almost completely consistent throughout. Color is richly saturated with flesh tones being perhaps a shade or so too deep. Black levels are very impressive. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix makes very good use of the full soundstage with wonderful ambient effects being fed through the fronts and rears and a terrific spread of Theodore Shapiro's background music across the entire soundstage. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Deleted Scenes (7:30, HD): five scenes may be viewed individually or in montage.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
Extended Scenes (4:33, HD): two scenes may be viewed individually or in montage.
Alternate Scenes (3:42, HD): two alternate scenes from the movie may be viewed in montage or separately.
Behind the Scenes (HD): producer-director-star Ben Stiller, producers John Goldwyn and Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., writer Steven Conrad, production designer Jeff Mann, stunt coordinator Tim Trella, composer Ted Shapiro, cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, casting director Rachel Tenner, and titles designer Kyle Cooper appear in one or more brief featurettes on the various aspects of the production:
- The History of Walter Mitty (3:39)
- The Look of Life (5:01)
- That’s a Shark (5:57)
- The Music of Mitty (4:01)
- Icelandic Adventure (3:26)
- Nordic Casting (3:51)
- Titles of Walter Mitty (2:49)
- Skateboarding Through Iceland (2:23)
- Ted-Walter Fight (2:48)
Image Gallery: twelve stills used for reference
Music Video (4:22, HD): “Stay Alive” sung by José Gonzales
Theatrical Trailer (1:55, HD)
DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Basically ignoring the masterful James Thurber original story and going blindly into this fanciful cinematic journey toward one man’s maturation is the best way to enjoy this new version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It doesn’t come near to the wit, action, or fun of Ben Stiller’s previous Tropic Thunder, but the Blu-ray presentation is nevertheless top notch.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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