This was one of the first humorous grown-up stories on which I "imprinted" when I was young. Up until then, I thought I was the only one who could go off on wild adventures without leaving the house. Author James Thurber showed me otherwise.
Our day-dreaming Caspar Milquetoast imagines PG-rated heroic actions, brilliant strategies and a love story for the ages in order to escape the boredom of the job he has held for sixteen years. Writer Steve Conrad ("The Pursuit of Happyness") has wisely set his story in a current corporate down-sizing situation, fraught with job loss and grief for a magazine that will no longer have a print edition. The company taking over is staffed by heartless suits who only see numbers, not the real people who had made the magazine a success.
* Ben Stiller ("Arrested Development") as our eponymous hero who "spaces out" occasionally. His humdrum job is in the basement of the Time-Life building. He has a passport but he has never gone anywhere.
* Kathryn Hahn ("We're the Millers") is his sister who wants to audition for Rizzo in an off-off Broadway production of "West Side Story."
* Kristen Wiig ("Saturday Night Live") has just been hired at the same magazine; she has a three-legged dog and a two-legged son.
* Adam Scott ("Parks and Recreation") plays the new broom that is going to sweep everything clean. He is cold, demanding and has no clue about the history of the company he's helping take over.
* Shirley MacLaine ("Downton Abbey") is Walter's sweet mom, being moved (with a piano that is waaaay too big) to an assisted living facility.
* Patton Oswalt ("Young Adult") works at the computer-dating service where Walter subscribes; he wants our hero to have a more interesting résumé.
It has been a Hollywood dream to commit this fantasy-laced story to film for a long, long time (the one with Danny Kaye really doesn't count). Now with unfettered Computer Generated Imaging, director Ben Stiller has finally achieved the dream. I would point out however, that the best parts are the "plain" scenes, the red car on a lonely road, the skate boarder going down that long hill, the runner crossing the bridge, those are the remarkable scenes that stayed in my head long after the happy ending. Oh... And the volcano!
Yup, we have people to root for, with no gunfire, no vehicular mayhem, no profanity, no blowie uppie stuff and no sweaty bodies; just Entertainment (capital "E").