Viewed – 18 May 2014 Blu-ray
Although when I was younger I would enjoy watching movies starring Danny Kaye on a Saturday afternoon, the original 1947 whimsical comedy wasn’t one I recall seeing. Therefore although I usually hold remakes in some disdain, this one was more welcome. Ben Stiller stars as loner office worker Walter who lives his life day dreaming about adventures, more than often featuring his workplace crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). When the threat of redundancy puts everyone on edge at the magazine he works for, a telegram from a renowned explorer / photographer (Sean Penn) sees Walter clutching onto his last hope for adventure.
This utterly charming and clever movie has Ben perfectly casting himself (he also directs!), equally well supported by the always lovely Kristen. The movie takes the blueprint of the Danny Kaye movie and attempts to really go to town with it, resulting in lavish and outrageous fantasy set pieces such as rescuing a dog from a burning building and a Matrix-like street surfing battle with his boss (!). It’s an idea that proves a bit hit-and-miss (who came up with the Benjamin Button sequence?) but livens up what would otherwise be a pleasant but very gentle story. Add to this stunning cinematography with a Forest Gump-like tone for Walter’s globe trotting scenes, and this also proves a visual treat.
I found Walter’s motivation for setting off in search of the explorer, considering his employers are a bunch of arrogant dicks, lacked plausibility and the love story sub-plot with Wiig could have been more engaging if she’d tagged along (for real, not just in his head). Add to this some artsy effects that didn’t always work (we see a brief text message displayed on the side of a mountain, that I had to rewind because I missed what it said…) and a (mostly) forgettable soundtrack … this almost fell short. Thankfully Stiller is excellent and very likeable throughout and there’s enough feel good, heart-warming moments (Wiig’s Major Tom bit) and creative razzle-dazzle to make this one to check out.
Verdict: 4 /5