Alan Dee’s film preview: Mitty is a misfire, but Redford is still making waves at 77

If someone says you’re a bit of a Walter Mitty they’re dismissing you as a deluded daydreamer, but where does the name come from?

Wednesday, 25th December 2013, 12:31 pm
Ben Stiller in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

First there was a short story by American humourist James Thurber, and that was turned into a big screen vehicle for the talents of Danny Kaye.

The combination was enough for the name to pass into the language, but that won’t bother potential punters pondering whether to shell out on a new cinema take on the story.

They’ll be more attracted by the presence of Ben Stiller as writer and director, and asking themselves the crucial question: Is it funny?

Ben Stiller in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

In this modern makeover, our hero is stuck in a humdrum admin job at a top magazine and is forced to grasp life with both hands when he loses a crucial image and has to go on a worldwide hunt for it.

That’s the cue for lots of location work and special effects, but the laughs are strained and most people would be left thinking that if he didn’t back up his data he deserves all he gets.

Keanu Reeves is still getting big gigs – go figure. Swords and samurai adventure 47 Ronin casts him as impassive hero determined to right wrongs and cut off heads with a single sweeping slice. Which isn’t wrong if you’re doing it for the right reasons, apparently.

He’s not asked to express much emotion, which is a good thing, as he battles against the baddies and assorted supernatural foes.

Fair play to Robert Redford, now aged 77 but refusing to relax and take it easy. In All Is Lost he carries the whole picture without saying a word, or even having a name.

He’s an intrepid yachtsman battling against the elements after his vessel is holed by a freak collision. His supplies are dwindling, the radio is wrecked, there’s a big storm coming and the sharks are circling – here’s real adventure, and a tale well told by Margin Call director J.C. Chandor and his superb star.