The barely-based-on-a-true-story “American Hustle” opens with a title card that reads “Some of this stuff actually happened.” In that same sense, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is based on a short story by Columbus native James Thurber.
Ben Stiller stars as the title character, a mild-mannered photography clerk at Life magazine who escapes his mundane surroundings with elaborate imaginary adventures.
Secretly crushing on a coworker (Kristen Wiig, who also plays a crushworthy coworker in “Anchorman 2”), Mitty decides to leave his comfort zone and go on a real adventure in search of a lost frame from his photojournalist friend.
Stiller also directs “Mitty,” a good-natured bit of escapist fluff that relies a bit too much on whiz-bang special effects.
The sentimentality — and departure from the source material — won’t play well with sophisticated audiences. I found “Mitty” was best enjoyed once you drop the pretense that its December release translates to “Oscar contender” — and there are many better offerings for the serious moviegoer at this time of year (like “American Hustle”).
If anything, it’s a more grown-up version of another Stiller vehicle, “Night at the Museum.” If this was intended to catapult Stiller into the ranks of serious filmmaker, it falls short, but it seems perfectly agreeable for your post-Christmas movie with the family.
Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox