Directed by Ang Lee
As a young boy, Piscine Molitor Patel grew up at an Indian zoo. Preferring to be called “Pi,” he was also fascinated by religion all religion. He marveled at the superhero-like gods of Hinduism. He was enthralled by the sacrifice of Jesus in Christianity and he was drawn to the ritual of prayer in Islam. His atheist father indulged his studies, but with one caveat believe in something. Anything.
Before Pi could draw his own conclusions about the meaning of life, his family closed the zoo and took the animals on a ship to Canada. But en route, the ship sank in a terrible storm. Pi found himself adrift at sea in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a ferocious tiger named Richard Parker. But to survive, Pi has to rethink every conclusion he has made about life.
“Life of Pi” is rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.
While the special effects are impressive, “Life of Pi” deserves recognition for something else its boldness. It tells a story with an Indian lead and relatively unknown actors. It features non-linear storytelling. It features hallucinations amid flashbacks. “Life of Pi” is part “Slumdog Millionaire,” part “Cast Away,” part “We Bought a Zoo” and it blends them all pretty effectively. It features surreal imagery and symbolism. It’s just incredibly ambitious and a tough story to tell. I give a lot of credit to Ang Lee for even attempting to film this novel. I’d like to see Hollywood try to break the mold like this more often.
I also am impressed that “Life of Pi” tackled something else that Hollywood frequently shies away from religion. Young Pi examines Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Atheism equally and finds merits and drawbacks of each. I think it’s something that everyone goes through at one point or another if they question the meaning of life. To see it played out through the eyes of a young Indian boy is an exciting thing to see on the big screen. While I wasn’t necessarily satisfied with the conclusions that “Life of Pi” came to, I’m glad they at least brought up the question.
What Didn’t Work:
Along those same lines, literal-minded audiences will have trouble wrapping their minds around “Life of Pi” as well. The first two acts are quite strong and seemingly grounded in the real world. But by the third act, things start getting really, really trippy. The weirdness culminates when Pi and Richard Parker land on an island populated by meerkats. The scene will play well in states that have legalized pot, but most of the rest of us will be left trying to Google the meaning of it online after the credits roll.
“Life of Pi” is being heavily advertised on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and The Disney Channel. It’s also rated PG, so I assumed it was a family film and took my kids to see it. While I don’t think there was any objectionable material in the film, I’d call this movie a PG-10. My 13-year-old kid and 10-year-old kid had no problem with it, but my 7-year-old son was cringing as the tiger repeatedly tried to attack Pi. There were also some rather brutal scenes involving the hyena, zebra, and orangutan. So if you have sensitive kids or any under 10, I would recommend using caution when watching “Life of Pi.”
The Bottom Line: