Film review: Life of Pi

  • 0 COMMENTS
Suraj Sharma play opposite a tiger in the fantasy adventure adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, Life of Pi. Suraj Sharma play opposite a tiger in the fantasy adventure adaptation of Yann Martel's novel, Life of Pi.

Fantastic journey

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a rich and wondrous 3D interpretation

This Life of Pi is something of a miracle. It’s a 3D-enhanced movie based on a much respected novel and set mostly on a life raft. Given that 3D is often more trouble than it’s worth, some great novels have become terrible films, and not even Alfred Hitchcock could make a life raft interesting, Life of Pi’s goodness and near-greatness is all the more impressive.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Director Ang Lee more often than not makes movies that are great (Brokeback Mountain) or border on great (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Even his misses are interesting—who else would dare to make Hulk, a movie based on the Marvel comic, into something resembling a Greek tragedy?

And now Lee tackles Life of Pi. The movie creates a clever framing device that successfully sidesteps one of the novel’s few problems, namely its clumsy humor concerning the translation from Japanese to English of a conversation between two insurance agents.

That’s where the dissimilarities between the novel and film largely end. This adaption works from beginning to end. The fantastic setting—in the truest sense of fantastic —helps, and Lee’s choice of bold and rich visuals is a risk that pays off. There’s only so much computer animation can do, and Lee recognizes the strengths and limitations of CGI. Richard Parker, the tiger with whom Pi spends most of the story adrift on a life raft, always looks real, whether he’s played by a living tiger or a computer.

Pi ends up on a raft with Richard Parker as his companion through some of the best and worst luck possible. Pi’s father, who runs a zoo in their home country of India, decides to sell the animals to other zoos in North America. While making the journey across the world to Canada, the freighter on which Pi and his family are traveling with the animals sinks in an unexplained accident. Pi ends up on a raft with a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena, an orangutan and Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger, after the freighter sinks.

How Pi survives without killing Richard Parker, himself, or dying of starvation is a fascinating allegory on faith and primal instincts. None of the allegory feels overwhelming or forced, and viewers will probably find themselves taken in by the story and forget they’re wearing bulky 3D glasses.

Suraj Sharma, in his first film role as Pi, faces the daunting task of carrying an entire movie. That he does it without sinking under the weight of the material—or looking lost playing opposite a computer-generated image—is another of the film’s small miracles. The great Irrfan Khan plays Pi as an adult.

Life of Pi is filled with humor and wonderment, but also has its share of heart-stopping drama. Despite its PG rating, Life of Pi isn’t really for kids. Richard Parker is fierce, and Pi’s loss of his entire family is hard to take. Nonetheless, it’s excellent end-of-year fare, and signals a return to form for Ang Lee after the underwhelming Taking Woodstock.

Have your say. Drop a line to mail bag@c-ville.com, send a letter to 308 E. Main St., or post a comment at c-ville.com.

Playing
this week

A Late Quartet
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Argo
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Atlas Shrugged: Part 2
Carmike Cinema 6

Brooklyn Castle
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Farewell My Queen
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Finding Nemo 3D
Carmike Cinema 6

Flight
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Fun Size
Carmike Cinema 6

Holy Motors
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Lincoln
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Looper
Carmike Cinema 6

The Other Son
Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Perks of Being
a Wallflower
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Pitch Perfect
Carmike Cinema 6

Red Dawn
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Rise of the Guardians
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

The Sessions
Vinegar Hill Theatre

Silent Hill: Revelation
Carmike Cinema 6

Skyfall
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Taken 2
Carmike Cinema 6

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Wreck-It Ralph
Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX

Movie houses

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown
Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX
244-3213

Vinegar Hill Theatre
977-4911

 

Comment Policy