By Laura P. Valtorta
The doors of the Columbiana Grande cinema went “whoosh” as the renowned movie critic, Laura P. Valtorta made her way to see the latest Ben Stiller flick – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. “The Bluffington Post” had sent her free tickets. She made her way to the back of the theater, amongst the other important critics, some of whom spoke French. “Bonjour,” they saluted her.
“This should be good,” said her husband, Marco, gobbling popcorn and jarring Laura from her reverie. “It’s nice to continue our Christmas day movie-going tradition.”
Their son, Dante, stretched out between them, hogging both armrests and sending twitter messages on his phone.
“Put your phone away,” Laura told Dante, hoping he would switch from the artificial electronic stimulation of his cell phone to the artificial electronic stimulation of the cinema “Since we’re at the movie house now, let’s watch the movie up there.’
That was the theme of Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty – everyone needs to stop zoning out and pay more attention to what’s happening in the here and now. It was a message Laura enjoyed, especially in a world where people seem unable to sit alone at restaurant without chatting loudly with someone in another city on their phones, or staring at the screen of a laptop, lost in a distant world, far away.
We’ve lost the art of people-watching. We’ve all become Walter Mitties.
In the Ben Stiller movie, Walter eventually stops daydreaming so much. Getting fired from a job cures him. He travels to Iceland and Greenland, he climbs mountains in Afghanistan to find Sean Penn, and he learns to court the woman of his dreams. Unlike the 1947 version of the movie, starring Danny Kaye and an overbearing mother, Ben Stiller’s Walter ends up being helped by his mother (Shirley MacLaine) – not smothered. Unlike the main character in the short story by James Thurber, Ben Stiller’s Walter is not married to a harpie. He wants to get married; and women are not monsters.
During the closing credits at the Columbiana, the famous movie critic Laura Valtorta spoke in French and Italian to her cohorts and opined that Ben Stiller’s movie was superior to the 1947 version – more thoughtful, more meaningful, and less critical of the female sex.
“The Danny Kaye version was just plain silly,” Laura said. “I bet that Ben Stiller gets along well with his mother, Anne Meara, and with his wife, Christine Taylor. James Thurber was married, twice, but he probably preferred E.B. White.”
The other film critics laughed.