Life perhaps best kept a secret

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) imagines himself as a fearless mountain climber who captures the attention of his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).
Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) imagines himself as a fearless mountain climber who captures the attention of his co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig).
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The man has form. James Thurber’s short story in The New Yorker became Danny Kaye’s 1949 movie.

This was followed by clones, such as Billy Liar, and suddenly in the 1950s, the expression “being a Walter Mitty” entered popular parlance, meaning a dreamer, a daydreamer.

The modern generation knows nothing of this, so when Ben Stiller comes along in 2013 and tears it to pieces, they won’t be aware of what has been destroyed.

Walter Mitty (Stiller), Life magazine’s negative asset manager, responsible for filing and providing pictures sent in by staff photographers is, as you would expect, a nobody. He works in the basement and has no life outside.

He’s not shy, although appears so; he’s why? Guys like this never get the girl, never go anywhere, are obsessed with the minutiae of their work and are about as much fun as The Knitting Society’s monthly newsletter.

Life – the mag, not that thing you do – is being closed down and they want a particular picture from their reclusive star photographer for the final cover. Mitty cannot locate it and so embarks on a travelogue in an attempt to find it.

Before he leaves there are a couple of CGI daydreams in which he plays a superhero type, but that’s the only nod to Thurber. After that, it’s air miles and chilly adventures in bleak landscapes.

Oh, there is a girl. Walter fancies her, but she doesn’t notice – who would? – until he brings back a skateboard from Greenland for her son.

Stiller is an acquired taste. Those who walked out of Zoolander and sat tight-lipped through Meet The Parents will be baffled by his deadpan performance in a film that he directed.

Walter Mitty takes the antihero into areas of sad you never knew you wanted to avoid.

The dreams are fun, but the rest is a test.