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Review: Life of Pi

Nov. 20, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: The story of Pi (Suraj Sharma)- a sixteen year-old Indian boy, who survives a shipwreck, and finds himself adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger- named Richard Parker. Not only does Pi have to try and survive on the open ocean, but he also has to use all of his ingenuity to keep the tiger tame and fed- lest it devour him.

REVIEW: An adaptation of Yann Martels landmark novel, which none other than Barack Obama once called an elegant proof of God, LIFE OF PI was a book many considered unfilmable. Considering that the majority of the book is about a teen boy trapped on a lifeboat with a man-eating tiger, it must have been a logistical nightmare.

I mean, how could you possibly film the tiger? The only way would be if it was kept stoned out of it's whiskers for months on end- but then you would have had a pretty sleepy star. Naturally- this would have been impossible to shoot- provided the filmmakers were sane. Thanks to a hefty $100 million budget, it was possible to make the animals (including a zebra and a orangutan) CGI. Only a few years ago, this would have been either impossible or ridiculously fake-looking, but I defy anyone to watch LIFE OF PI and not be convinced the animals weren't real. If indeed, they've all been rendered with CGI, I say LIFE OF PI needs to win the best visual fx award at this year's Oscars, as that alone is a towering achievement.

But how is the movie itself?

Actually pretty great, for the most part. Director Ang Lee tends to be hit an miss for me. I'm one of the few that thought CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON was wildly overrated (any Shaw Bros., film is far better), and I despised his take on THE HULK. But, I also loved THE ICE STORM, and I thought BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was a masterpiece. While LIFE OF PI isn't quite on that level, it can't be denied that Lee has probably made the best adaptation of Yann Martel's book that's possible. While I found the first half-hour a little frenzied, and jarring in it's flashback/flash-forward technique, once the shipwreck kicks in, and Pi finds himself adrift, it becomes pretty astonishing.

Far from just being about a boy adrift on the sea, Lee, with some of the best 3D photography I've ever seen, turns Pi's physical and mental struggle to survive into a hallucinogenic semi-masterpiece. It's certainly one of the most gorgeous films I've seen in a long time, and Pi's spiritual awakening, and fantasies are brilliant conveyed.

Suraj Sharma, an eighteen-year-old newcomer, is excellent as Pi- who's portrayed as somewhat naive in his enthusiastic embrace of all religion (being a Hindu-catholic-muslim), prompting a memorable admonishment from his pragmatic father- where he says, I'd rather you believe in something I don't than just follow everything blindly. Once on his own on the open sea- with the very hungry Richard Parker, Sharma makes his evolution into a surprisingly self-reliant, and ingenious survivor truly inspiring.

While it's certainly almost a one-man show, LIFE OF PI does have a few juicy supporting parts, the most important being Irrfan Khan as the older Pi, and Rafe Spall as Martel. Khan is good as always- especially towards the end, while Spall as a fairly blank role, once which (apparently) was originally filmed with Tobey Maguire, until Lee decided having a star in such a minor part would be distracting (he's right).

All told, I thought LIFE OF PI was a pretty great film, and certainly something that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible at the most technically advanced theater you can find. I'd also say that it's an excellent film for kids- although the shipwreck (an amazing setpiece) is intense, and some of the animals meet rather untimely ends. That said, this is really one the whole family can enjoy- and hopefully it'll be successful. It certainly deserves to be.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+1
10:38AM on 11/20/2012

Looking forward to it

I read the book and fully enjoyed it. Ang Lee is the perfect director for this kind of story.
I read the book and fully enjoyed it. Ang Lee is the perfect director for this kind of story.
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4:51AM on 11/20/2012
cool, I didn't expect it to be good!
cool, I didn't expect it to be good!
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2:40PM on 10/22/2012

Family friendly?

Did they alter the rather graphic ending of the book or is everything just implied?
Did they alter the rather graphic ending of the book or is everything just implied?
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6:24AM on 12/20/2012
It's just implied. There are some suggestions at the beginning when the animals kill each other, but its still PG overall.
It's just implied. There are some suggestions at the beginning when the animals kill each other, but its still PG overall.
8:53AM on 10/22/2012
Is your typo at the beginning of the article a sub-conscious reveal of the condition that the boy actually is in? lol or just a simple slip of the finger?
Is your typo at the beginning of the article a sub-conscious reveal of the condition that the boy actually is in? lol or just a simple slip of the finger?
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8:29AM on 10/22/2012
"Not only dies Pi have to try and survive on the open ocean,"

Um, was that a possible spoiler or typo? And the part about a 'few years ago' CGI animals weren't possible/not convincing? Its been nearly 20 years since Jurassic Park came out and 17 since Jumanji and Babe! If thats a few years to you then damn, you must be really old (which isn't a bad thing, btw).
"Not only dies Pi have to try and survive on the open ocean,"

Um, was that a possible spoiler or typo? And the part about a 'few years ago' CGI animals weren't possible/not convincing? Its been nearly 20 years since Jurassic Park came out and 17 since Jumanji and Babe! If thats a few years to you then damn, you must be really old (which isn't a bad thing, btw).
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2:45AM on 10/22/2012

unfilmable?

seems like a few books that are unfilmable are getting the movie treatment this year, and doing it well.

"Life of Pi", "Cloud Atlas", "The Hobbit", "Zabibah and the King" (The Dictator), and (arguably) "The Avengers"

anyway, i am curious about this movie to say the least, looks like another one of your reviews is the deciding factor for me to see something, thanks
seems like a few books that are unfilmable are getting the movie treatment this year, and doing it well.

"Life of Pi", "Cloud Atlas", "The Hobbit", "Zabibah and the King" (The Dictator), and (arguably) "The Avengers"

anyway, i am curious about this movie to say the least, looks like another one of your reviews is the deciding factor for me to see something, thanks
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7:19AM on 10/22/2012
I would argue that The Dictator proves that some books really are (or at least, should be) unfilmable.
I would argue that The Dictator proves that some books really are (or at least, should be) unfilmable.
+1
2:31AM on 10/22/2012
This is a film I am very much looking forward to and I am happy it's so good. The trailer showed a wild but visually fantastic film, and one thing that Ang Lee always seems to deliver is something that is visually pleasing and of the highest technical caliber. Can't wait.
This is a film I am very much looking forward to and I am happy it's so good. The trailer showed a wild but visually fantastic film, and one thing that Ang Lee always seems to deliver is something that is visually pleasing and of the highest technical caliber. Can't wait.
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2:15AM on 10/22/2012
Great to hear C-Bumb liked it on the whole, even as someone who isn't a die-hard Lee Ang (that's what he's known as here in Asia) fan! Definitely looking forward to seeing this, even just for the visual feast. Also, I've heard this described as a "family adventure film". Kids probably won't enjoy it on the same level as adults, but it's good to hear you corroborate that - it's about time we got a "family film" with substance!
Great to hear C-Bumb liked it on the whole, even as someone who isn't a die-hard Lee Ang (that's what he's known as here in Asia) fan! Definitely looking forward to seeing this, even just for the visual feast. Also, I've heard this described as a "family adventure film". Kids probably won't enjoy it on the same level as adults, but it's good to hear you corroborate that - it's about time we got a "family film" with substance!
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