Starring: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Kahn, Adil Hussain, Tabu, Rafe Spall, Gerard Depardieu.
Rated: PG. Adventure/Drama. 2 hours 7 minutes.
Anyone who has seen the trailers for Life of Pi has a decent idea of what the main plot of the movie is. A young boy is in a terrible shipwreck and ends up on a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger. Life of Pi is much more than that in fact, not all of it good unfortunately. As the title states, this is the story (the fairly complete story) of the life of Pi Patel (Sharma). It is told by the very grown up Pi (Kahn) to a writer (Spall) who has been sent to visit him at his current residence in Canada. The story begins in India when Pi is very young living with his family who own a zoo. The story is an interesting one, but there is too much of it. The feeling of “get to the good stuff” was running through my mind and I’d wager through many others in the packed theater as well. Once we do get there, Life of Pi begins in earnest, and the visuals are indeed stunning.
It was visually mesmerizing. However, the dramatic and heartbreaking story was overshadowed by the trippy 3-D sequences. The director, Ang Lee, should not expect to garner such success as he had previously seen with features such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain”. Life of Pi was like a melding of these two; an emotional heart-wrenching story like Brokeback with the artistic visuals and cinematic spectacles of Crouching Tiger. These aspects of the film work better as singular focuses rather than the attempted dichotomy in Pi. I have to agree with Ross that I was eagerly awaiting the shipwreck and other action packed scenes I had seen in previews. The first hour or so seemed to drag on and the last twenty minutes ruined the whole thing for me. The story didn’t have any closure, nothing seemed to come full circle. And there were too many boring lulls between the spectacular scenes and the core of the plot.
I’m not feeling quite as negative about the film as Maria seems to be, but I wholeheartedly agree with her assessment of the use of 3-D. First, they’re remaking and re-releasing everything in 3-D these days. We saw a preview for Jurassic Park in 3-D coming soon. An obvious and overtly whorish money grab. Second, personally I don’t find the effects of the 3-D to enhance my viewing pleasure at all. It’s already a high definition gigantic screen, how much more do you need? Life of Pi would’ve been better without it IMO. So, back to the movie. The story is being told by Pi as an adult, so you know he’s going to survive. This in and of itself doesn’t ruin anything, but there are many truly life-threatening scenes that you know aren’t going to kill him. Granted, many movies have similar situations and you pretty much “know” the star isn’t going to die. But there’s always that puny hint of doubt in the back of your mind, isn’t there? Still, the interaction between Pi and the tiger, their battles with each other and their battles to survive, were well done and Ang Lee at his best. Pi survives obviously, but there is a twist at the end that left me thinking, and I’ve decided ultimately, diminished the entire movie. My boy Ethan (9) didn’t really want to see it with us but he went anyway (a really good boy), and though he was pretty scared a few times, he enjoyed it. There was one “juvenile-type humor” scene that especially tickled him, but I think PG-13 might have been a better rating. I recommend seeing Life of Pi. It explores spirituality in a straight forward, unbiased way that I found interesting. It’s well acted and beautifully filmed. It’s also a bit too long and the end bothered me. I think with the right editing it could’ve become a true classic. In it’s current form I believe it falls short of that.
Perhaps, I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the story. I truly loved the examination of faith, hope and spiritualism, but it seemed like a difficult book to bring to the screen. Also, I wasn’t thinking about the movie for hours afterward – asking myself the same questions from the film surrounding faith and the human spirit. The deeper themes didn’t stay with me and I didn’t feel moved to further ponder the ideas from Pi. I know that a film has truly accomplished something amazing when I can’t stop thinking about it several hours later or before I fall asleep. Something was missing here for me and I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly what it is. However, there were several things I thoroughly enjoyed, such as the scenes with the beautiful Bengal tiger. What a magnificent animal! I also love the story of Pi’s survival, of how he never gave up hope and was determined to make it back to civilization. I found his friendship with the tiger moving and inspiring. It reminded me of Tom Hanks’ friendship with the volleyball, “Wilson”. Although, of course, Wilson was an inanimate object, but I felt the same emotional weight in both these relationships. I cry everytime I watch that volleyball float away on the sea in “Cast Away”. Pi is a heartbreaking tale coupled with vivid and splendid visuals, but it left so much to be desired…for me at least.
Ross’ Rating: 3 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
Maria’s Rating: 2.5 Gummies.