THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY Family Movie Review3 min read


Ben Stiller directs and stars in this remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye film about a daydreamer whose adventurous fantasies help him endure the drudgery of his daily life. In this version, Mitty is an employee of Life Magazine whose desperation to save his job (and those of his friends) takes him on a globetrotting quest that is more exotic than any of his daydreams. A killer soundtrack and gorgeous visuals bolster a sweet and simple story of self-discovery and gentle romance. Stiller is nicely restrained here, as is generally zany SNL-alum Kristen Wiig. The two have a light and breezy chemistry. Walter's daydreams offer nice bursts of humor and action, but it's the character's real-world adventures that stay with you. The plot hinges too often on coincidence and “easy outs,” but there's real meaning and significance here as well.

CONTENT OVERVIEW:  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is rated PG. It has two comedic fight scenes (one an overblown fantasy, one in the “real world”) and a 4-5 moderate profanities. A supporting character is staggering drunk the entire time he's onscreen. There are three sexual innuendos: Walter jokingly asks another character if she relates to Grease‘s Rizzo because of the “teenage sex and drinking,” a foreign man speaking broken English mispronounces the word “eruption” (volcanic) as “erection,” and Walter must outrun a group described as “horny Chileans (sailors) who want to go to a strip club” to get a bicycle for his journeys. There is no sex or nudity.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Sometimes our experiences don't give us what we expected or hoped for, but are nevertheless for our good, helping us to be better people (see  D&C 122:7). Hard times are opportunities for overcoming adversity (see 2 Corinthians 4:17). Love for others helps us to triumph over our fears (1 John 4:18). The purpose of our life is to find joy (2 Nephi 2:25).

Like Life is Beautiful before it, The Book Thief (based on a novel by Markus Zusak) finds hope and beauty amidst the horrors of World War II. The story finds a young German girl named Leisel taken in by adoptive parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson). Amidst book burnings and pressure to join the Hitler Youth, she quietly resists the Nazis by stealing books and helping shelter a Jew in the family's basement. The film is at times overly-sentimental and the framing device (Death as the narrator) doesn't translate smoothly to a film about real-life horrors, but the acting is marvelous, John William's score is beautiful, and the story inspires compassion and kindness.


CONTENT OVERVIEW: The Book Thief is rated PG-13. It has a few mild and moderate profanities, but no sex or nudity. The rating mostly comes from the intense thematic material related to World War II, bombings, illness, and antisemitism. A few incidents involving blows to the head lead to some minorly bloody wounds. A sick boy has a nose bleed. There are glimpses of dead bodies (not bloody) after bombings.

MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: The best books are a treasure and ought to be read as a source of wisdom (see D&C 88:118). The Lord abhors all hatred, but especially hatred directed at the Jews, who are still His covenant people (see 2 Nephi 29:5). There is no greater love than to put one's life at risk for another (see John 15:13). Adoptive parents can be as genuine and loving as biological parents. Leisel steals books and her family lies about hiding a Jew; although stealing and lying are against God's commandments (see Exodus 20:15-16) there are times when the Lord allows exceptions to serve a greater good (see 1 Nephi 4:10-13; Alma 43:29-30).


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