Sunday, November 25, 2012

LIFE OF PI (2012)

Rated PG

Stars: Suraj Sharma,  Irfan Khan
Director: Ang Lee
Genre: Drama/Action-Adventure

Ang Lee's Life of Pi is like an almost exquisitely beautiful woman who has one noticeable flaw--and that is her Pinocchio nose. Which is another way of saying that the movie stretches too long. By about half an hour. The strength of the film, which is its breathtakingly stunning CGI, is also its weakness because it nearly  reminds one of the early days of 3D, where it was all about the visual effects, with little substance to the story.

The story--such as it is--begins around a young, spiritually precocious  boy named Pi Patel, (played by four different actors, including Suraj Sharma and Irfan Khan ) who investigates numerous traditions (Hinduism, Christianity, Islam) and sees the commonality among them above the illusion of separateness many adherents of religion seem to be mired in. All paths lead to the one creator.

His longing to find God will serve Pi during the immense trial of his life, when he is cast away at sea after the freighter his family was traveling on sinks. (Gerard Depardieu has a cameo as a cook on the ship!) The family was en route from India to Canada to begin a new life--with numerous animals from the zoo they had previously run on board. Four of the animals survive, and end up in the lifeboat with Pi--a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (Don't ask!) The tiger eventually dispatches  the other animals in some graphically violent scenes Take heart that this is accomplished through CGI, though the technology has been perfected to the point where it is difficult to tell anymore what is real and what is an illusion, as the Moody Blues once said.

With just the lad and the tiger left alive, the struggle now shifts to Pi's attempt to effect some kind of truce with Richard Parker, so that hopefully they can both survive and reach dry land. But all this goes on for about an hour of film time, with the two of them battling the elements as well as each other. Which becomes anti-climactic because we already know the boy survives, as the story is being told in flashbacks  by a middle-aged Pi  Additionally, the film trailer shows Richard Parker walking along a sandy beach, so the suspense factor here is nil.  It seems obvious that Life of Pi  wants to be appreciated primarily for its technical achievements.

The one thing that is realistic about Life Of Pi is that the anthropomorphic fallacy is not in play here. We come away with the stern realization that wild animals are just that. Which is good. I hate those animated films that have talking lions dispensing human-like wisdom, or the TV commercial where these bears are doing what bears normally do in the woods, while extolling  the softness of a particular brand of butt-wipe.

So point well taken.

And that means, parents, don't be taken in by this film's PG rating. There are extended scenes of  graphic brute violence here, and the disturbing sound effects that go with it.  I wouldn't take any child under the age of twelve to see it.

Grade:  B