James Thurber never wanted his short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty made into a film. Producer Samuel Goldwyn and director Norman Z. McLeod ignored him and with their 1947 adaptation, they gifted Danny Kaye with one of his greatest roles and the world with a lively comic fantasy classic that, in addition to Kaye, starred Virginia Mayo, Boris Karloff, Fay Bainter and a bevy of Goldwyn Girls.
Now Ben Stiller is getting into the act; producing, directing and starring in his own The Secret Life of Walter Mitty due out at Christmas. His costars include Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt and Shirley MacLaine. Sean Penn apparently makes an appearance, but alas for leg men everywhere, there are no showgirls. Steve Conrad (The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Promotion) penned the screenplay.
Thurber may have groused about Goldwyn taking his little story about a henpecked husband who imagines a life of adventure and turning it into a razzle-dazzle vehicle for Danny Kaye, but the movie is a work of comic genius that holds up after nearly 70 years. Stiller hopes that lightning strikes twice, that moviegoers will embrace his The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the same way they did Kaye’s. And he no doubt hopes it leaves as much of an imprint.
That is something for the future to decide. For now, all we can do is compare trailers. Kaye vs. Stiller. Mayo vs. Wiig. Goldwyn Girls vs. Iceland. Technicolor vs. state-of-the-art CGI. Buoyancy and slapstick vs. ??? Look for the clues contained in a scant two minutes (1:44 in the case of the 1947 version) and make your best guess. – Pam Grady