By Front Row Features
Ben Stiller directs and stars as the low-key title character in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” available Tuesday, April 15 on Blu-ray and DVD. Aside from his name, the only thing the character has in common with the one from James Thurber’s original short story is a tendency to daydream. Those colorful asides made the story a still-waters-run-deep parable about the vitality of a conventional man’s imagination. But the amped-up fantasies in the filmed version distract from a movie plot that substitutes an elaborate actual quest for an eventless quotidian afternoon.
Thurber’s Walter was a henpecked “not a young man any longer” husband who mentally spices up a day of shopping by imagining himself as a Navy pilot, a surgeon, a defendant on trial for murder, a bomber pilot and a condemned prisoner. The fact that nothing exceptional ever really happens is the entire point of the piece, which is that even passive and past-their-prime nobodies can escape their boring lives in flights of fancy.
By replacing Thurber’s simple suburban scenario with a globe-hopping romantic comedy/adventure plot, screenwriter Steve Conrad (“The Pursuit of Happyness,” “The Weather Man”) has subverted everything about the original story. Even the print version’s fantasies that put Walter in the shoes of coolly confident he-men have been scrapped. Instead, we get some violently confrontational action-movie clichés and an even more inappropriate inspirational vision.
In the screenplay, Walter works in the photo department of Life magazine, which is about to publish its final print issue. He pines for single-mom coworker Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), and he has lost a crucial film negative from star photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). Although finding the negative literally takes Walter around the world, its location is so obvious from the outset that the big reveal is a complete letdown.
The movie’s Walter daydreams about saving Cheryl from an exploding building and a superhero-level fight with his clueless corporate new boss that ends in asphalt-shredding street surfing. Also, the movie version of Walter is a former skateboard champion, a new detail that’s wrongheaded.
Walter ends up going on enough real-world foreign adventures that he finally is able to fill the travel journal he received as a teenager. But as soon as that Walter impulsively boards a jet to Greenland, he effectively stops being Thurber’s “all-in-his-mind” character.
Special features on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, extended scenes, alternate scenes, behind the scenes, a gallery of reference photography, the music video “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzalez and more. The DVD version includes some of the same behind-the-scenes features that are on the Blu-ray and the gallery of reference photography.
Also hitting home video Tuesday is “Cowgirls ‘N Angels 2: Dakota’s Summer,” starring Oscar winner Keith Carradine (“Cowboys & Aliens”) and Haley Ramm (“X-Men: The Last Stand)”, alongside Jade Pettyjohn (“American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars”) and Emily Bett Rickards (“Arrow”). The heartwarming drama is a sequel to the family friendly “Cowgirls ‘N Angels,” which was released in 2012. After she receives unexpected news about herself, a 17-year-old Dakota Rose (Ramm) experiences an exciting yet challenging life in and out of the rodeo circuit in this coming- of-age story. Filled with heart, horses and adventure, “Cowgirls ’N Angels 2: Dakota’s Summer” contends that with courage, friendship and passion, anything is possible. The Blu-ray/DVD combo has a behind-the-scenes feature and also contains a digital HD version that can be downloaded onto handheld devices.
Image Entertainment, an RLJ Entertainment brand, announces the DVD release of “The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes.” Included are 20 unforgettable episodes featuring television icon Mary Tyler Moore.
Sit back, plop your feet on the ottoman, and get ready to laugh as Laura (Moore) and Rob (Van Dyke) enjoy domestic adventures in Carl Reiner’s groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning comedy series, consistently ranked among the top television sitcoms of all-time. This time, it’s all about Mary.
Episodes include must-see favorites Never Bathe on Saturday (Laura gets her toe caught in a bath spout), Coast to Coast Big Mouth (Laura blurts out a big secret on national TV), My Blonde-Haired Brunette (an insecure Laura disastrously dyes her hair), and many more timeless classics and Oh How We Met the Night That We Danced, in which Rob and Laura recall how they met during a USO performance in which he ended up stepping on her foot, but won her heart anyway.
Bonus features include commentaries with Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke on a few episodes (unfortunately no Mary Tyler Moore), remembering “Oh, Rob” and original commercials.