About halfway through Ben Stiller's adaptation of James Thurber's eponymous short story, I realized with a start: Stiller must not have actually read the tale about the mild-mannered Mr. Mitty, who escapes his dull life through fanciful daydreams. Or perhaps he started it and never finished it. (It's only 2,100 words long.) Or, and this seems unthinkable for a pretty straightforward piece of comic writing, but you never know: Stiller did read it, but didn't get it.
Because in this version, Mitty (portrayed by Stiller) starts out as meek employee of Life magazine toiling in the photo room, and having the odd moment of fanciful thinking. Then a ridiculous bit of plotting sends him on an actual world adventure. Like straight-up alpha-male stuff: fighting sharks, skateboarding through a volcanic eruption and hanging out with Sean Penn in the Himalayas. This is not the wispy dream life of a pathetic nobody, but instead the bona fide Outside magazine tour de manhood in which our ugly duckling emerges as a kick-ass swan whom chicks dig.
Color me baffled. If Stiller wanted to go to Iceland (looks cool) and make a movie about a guy who finds himself through a bit of world travel, why couldn't he just do that? Why bring the long-suffering Walter Mitty into it?