Movie Review: Life of Pi (2012)

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Drama


Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan) has a pretty good life in Pondicherry India, his father Santosh (Adil Hussein) owns a zoo, and Pi likes the animals, especially a tiger named Richard Parker. As a boy, Pi is intellectually curious about three of the major religions in India, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.   In his teens, Pi finds himself falling in love with a classical dancer, Anandi. (Shravanthi Sainath)   Suddenly, Santosh becomes tired of owning a zoo, and packs up the family and the animals and heads to Canada via cargo ship.  Just as suddenly, the ship hits a storm, and starts to sink, and young Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and Richard Parker, the tiger.  One by one the other animals start to die, and Pi is left alone with a very hungry tiger named Richard Parker.  What does Pi do, does he survive?

Let me begin by saying I liked the beginning of Life of Pi very much. The early part of the movie was enthralling, Pi’s childhood in India, a funny backstory about how he got his name, his religious exploration, his love for a dancer, even how the tiger got his name.  The dialectic between the mother and father and Pi about religion and reason was what the whole movie should have been. I wanted to visit that place and learn much more about India and it’s religious diversity.  Then came the shipwreck with Pi being stranded with the zoo animals, and then the whole lifeboat ride becomes some kind of treatise on religion, and tries to say profound things about religion.  That aspect of the movie fails in my opinion, because the religious themes explored on the lifeboat were very superficial, nothing more than touching the surface, the tip of the iceberg, if you will pardon a nautical metaphor.  Then very late in the movie, the story turns allegorical, and that fails because the allegory was introduced far too late in the story to have any meaning, it seemed like an afterthought.  Also the story gives away the ending almost immediately, and that ruins any suspense about the shipwreck.

The acting was ok, mostly Indian actors, Suraj Sharma was ok for his first major role.  Irrfan Khan was dull, I don’t know much about him, but I wouldn’t want to watch a whole movie with him in it. The parents were interesting, Pi’s mother was played by Tabu, an Indian actress, who was quite emotive and nurturing in a small role.  Pi’s father was played by Adil Hussein, who played his role in an understated and effective way.

I will never understand why Ang Lee won best director for this movie, the special effects were spectacular, there was a scene with jellyfish and a whale that were eye-popping, especially in 3D, but this movie won a special effects Oscar already.  Lee did not deserve best director, Spielberg clearly  did, he recreated a Civil War backdrop for Pete’s sake, that’s much more directing than Ang Lee did in this movie.  But because Spielberg is commercially successful, he will never get the due he deserves. Don’t get me wrong I like Ang Lee, I really think his best movie was Lust, Caution, not Life of Pi. This movie is currently ranked # 10 on IMDB, it doesn’t deserve that honor.  It wasn’t even the best movie this year.  Not even close.

Life of Pi. 3.14 out of 10.


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