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Walter-Mitty-575“THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY” My rating : C+ (Opening wide on Dec. 25)

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

You’ve got to be of a certain age for the name Walter Mitty to even mean anything. In other words, old.

First appearing in a short story by James Thurber and then enacted on the screen by Danny Kaye in 1947, the story of a milquetoast Every Man who dreams himself the hero of countless adventures became so ubiquitous that any mousey guy with an active fantasy life was immediately identified as a Walter Mitty type.

More than 60 years later we have Walter’s latest incarnation in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” starring and directed by Ben Stiller. An actor who has often dealt in broad caricatures, Stiller here dials things way down. And he’s more interested in heart than in laughs.

The film opens cleverly enough with poor gray Walter wending his way to his job at Life magazine. He’s usually so lost in his own imagination that he misses his train. The opening credits are cleverly projected onto the city buildings around him.

Walter is a shy guy who aches longingly for a new coworker (Kristen Wiig) who seems not to know he exists. So he invents fantasies in which he’s able to sweep her off her feet. Part of the fun of the film’s opening passages is not knowing what’s real and what’s in Walter’s noggin.

Walter lives in the tomb-like basement of a vast office building where he’s a “negative assets manager.”  His job is to receive, process, and print the rolls of film sent by the one Life photographer who has resisted the digital revolution. Of course you could also read “negative assets manager” in another way…and in fact Walter finds his livelihod threatened when the magazine is taken over by a sneering  downsizer (Adam Scott) who announces they’re closing up shop after publishing one last issue. (more…)

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