Life of Pi has been out in the theaters for several months (late November release). It seems to be one of the few films that has been primarily hanging on in 3D theaters because the 3D effects are amazing. Then it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar so it has reemerged on more screens at local multiplexes.
Based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel of the same name, Life of Pi follows the adventures sixteen-year-old Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel as he is set adrift in the Pacific after the ship (Tzimtzum) he was on with his family sinks. His only companion in the lifeboat is a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Of course we are given his background, how he grew up in a household that had a zoo as a tourist attraction in Puducherry, India. When his father decides to sell the animals in North America and move the family to Canada the clan boards a Japanese freighter to set off for the New World. This requires Pi to say goodbye to his first crush while relying on his faith shaped by mathematical and scientific philosophies along with the religious belief systems of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam to guide him – especially when things look their bleakest.
Directed by Ang Lee, who has made a career out of helming a variety of film genres, Life of Pi has the look, particularly in 3D, of Dorothy landing in Technicolor Oz. For the record, I’m still freaked out by the CGI image of the ship going down. In this movie Lee tells a very multicultural story of a boy shaped by many traditions who through circumstances out of his control has to create his own coming of age narrative. On a deeper level it is about a journey to discover God in a world rich with color and differences, but most of all life.
Newcomer Suraj Sharma does a credible job as the title character. France’s favorite export Gérard Depardieu is cast as a minor but pivotal character. Richard Parker was played by a computer generated programmer…at least I hope he was because it would be tragic to think Sharma’s theatrical debut may have ended up his swan song as well.
I recommend seeing Life of Pi in 3D in the theaters. If you can only find it in its two dimensional form then waiting for it to come out on DVD (set to be released on March 5th) or cable might be a better choice financially. I think receiving a nomination for Best Picture Oscar is as high praise Life is going to receive this award season. Although it is an interesting film I don’t think it broke new ground cinematically however it probably did spark many folks, myself included, to Google “floating islands.”