We all daydream, but few on Earth daydream as big as the meek hero of Ben Stiller's latest The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Here Stiller not only stars as the titular daydreamer but also directs, crafting a whimsical adventure about a man whose real life has been lackluster, but who has a vibrant imagination that is always at play. When his job is threatened, Walter channels all his heroic fantasies into a real-life quest that takes him all around the world.
In the clip above, courtesy of Digital Spy, you get a taste of Walter's dilemma along with a dose of his flare for fiction. While waiting for the subway in what appears to be his daily routine, Walter calls the customer service line of a dating website he's testing out and is awkwardly confronted with how seemingly unimpressive he is. The obliging but baffled operator is unseen, but clearly is Patton Oswalt, whose memorably voiced Remy the rat in Pixar's Academy Award-winning animated feature Ratatouille. Coaching Walter to beef up his online profile, Oswalt's operator unintentionally inspires a flight of fantasy that has Walter lunging through glass windows and proving an absolute though awkward hero to his work crush Cheryl, played by Kristen Wiig.
You can see how the above conversation plays out to inspire Walter to some real-life greatness - and plenty of fantasies - in the film's second trailer:
If the premise of this candy-colored movie seems familiar, that's because it's basically a remake of a 1947 Danny Kaye comedy. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod, the original co-starred Virginia Mayo and Boris Karloff, and has Kaye playing Mitty as a pulp fiction writer whose head is solidly in the clouds. Outside of the name of the protagonist and his and penchant for daydreaming, the two films have very little in common. Kaye's version had him meeting a mysterious woman and following her and a little black book into a world of World War II conspiracies and intrigue. As you can see from its trailer, it was more a silly comedy than the seemingly inspirational adventure Stiller has aimed for.
Before either of these funny stars came along, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story by James Thurber that first ran in The New Yorker on March 18th, 1939. Its plot was far simpler than either of the movies it inspired. In Thurber's version, Mitty was a mild-mannered man who was running errands with his wife around Waterbury, Connecticut. To make his day more interesting, he found mundane muses that inspired him to concoct crazy stories with himself at the center. Over the course of one day, he imagines himself as a U.S. Navy pilot, a brilliant surgeon, a vicious assassin, and then a Royal Air Force pilot on a top-secret mission. While charming, this plot is not exactly the stuff of great cinema.
Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty opens December 25th.