Life of Pi is a fantastical journey
Starring Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan. Rated G. Opens Friday, November 23, at the Park Theatre
Some of us just want to see the Bengal tiger in the lifeboat. Is the tiger really in the lifeboat? Does the tiger follow proper lifeboat protocol (for example, not prematurely eating fellow occupants)? Does the tiger look as cool in the movie Life of Pi as the trailers promise? Curious children and adults with tiger-deprived childhoods may wonder such things. One answer: yes, the tiger looks terribly cool. Other answers? Go ask Richard Parker (that’s the tiger).
Readers of Yann Martel’s novel—which director Ang Lee and screenwriter David Magee have ambitiously turned into this movie—know that Pi grows up in Pondicherry, India. His family has a zoo. When Pi is a teenager (played by the engaging Suraj Sharma), the family and the animals board a freighter for Canada. A storm hits; the freighter capsizes.
Henceforth, one watches, sort of tries to figure things out, and instead becomes mesmerized by the movie’s insane beauty. Pi and Richard Parker the tiger are adrift together. They would both like to survive. Pi tells us—via the adult Pi’s (Irrfan Khan) narration—that he is simultaneously Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. One supposes that a spiritual, metaphorical journey is happening. As a childlike adult, one is keener for the fantastical-fable stuff and spacing out on it all.
The adventure is sometimes snoozy. But in magical, beguiling 3-D and CGI there are flying fish, whales, luminescent sea creatures and night skies, a boat on a glassy, endless ocean, more storms, and a tiny human in a wild world. And the tiger. The tiger is a wonder. Richard Parker, do you represent our inner beast or the savage landscape we inhabit? Whatever. You’re cooler as a tiger. You make our tender hearts thump. You’re better than the last drugs we did.
Watch the trailer for Life of Pi.