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Movie Review: ‘Life of Pi’ beats Hollywood cliché

Robert Penalber
News Editor

Fans of Yann Martel’s “The Life of Pi” will rejoice when watching director Ang Lee’s film adaptation, applauding the film for not being just another one of those novel-turned-Hollywood sell-outs.

Even more, “The Life of Pi” accomplishes what few movies are able to achieve nowadays- presenting an astounding 3-D film that actually contains a detailed plot.

Piscine Molitor Patel, now a middle-aged Indian, recounts his story to an incredulous Canadian writer – a 16-year-old boy surviving a shipwreck and crossing the Pacific with only the company of a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for 227 days.

Before delving into this story that takes up the bulk of the film, Pi shares his childhood in Pondicherry, India, including anecdotes about how he earned his nickname and the beginning of his short lived first crush.

After the family’s zoo business falls through, Pi’s family sets sail for Canada, leading to the shipwreck Pi tells of.

The storm packs a realistic punch- one reminiscent of Titanic.

Religion plays a prominent factor in both the young and adult Pi’s life, collecting religious ideals as if they were superheroes to him.

Raised to worship the Hindu deities, Pi also embraces Islam and Christianity despite his father’s frontal argument that Pi should use reason and choose to follow only one religion.

Pi even goes as far to make the bold proclamation that his story will make you believe in God.

Perhaps the most notable element in the film is its strong recurring themes.

Though religion continues to be brought up and explored, religious tolerance isn’t the most important theme. Rather, it’s the power of the mind – the personal accounts, imagination, dreams, prayers, or whichever method that may keep the mind strong

For newcoming actor Suraj Sharma’s Pi, it is all of these.

It is Pi’s perseverance during his struggle that has the audience rooting for him.

The film offers comedic relief in all the right places, allowing the audience to not feel guilty for laughing at the fact that Piscine does indeed sound like the word “pissing.”

Still, the relief does nothing to hinder the emotional package that “The Life of Pi” presents, whether it be through the losses Pi suffers, the physical struggle to survive or even the near-breakdown of his demeanor.

For those unfamiliar with the novel, the finest moment comes toward the end, as a surprise has us aching for Pi.

His story leaves the audience questioning the importance of truth and wondering whether or not the personal accounts we tell are moreso for ourselves than for others.

At times, though, the film tends to follow a formulaic presentation based on the bestseller.

The conversation between the aged Pi and the writer tends to cut in just when the audience had gotten comfortable and forgotten that the story was not present-day.

Other than computer-generated effects, the film leaves no room for surprise for those that have read the novel because of this chronological approach to the adaptation.

Some, however, may prefer this.

The film’s setting, primarily marine life, allows for digital cinema that has not yet been reached with other films and may compare to CGI-great “Avatar.”

Considering the graphic content of the novel that seems too difficult to transfer to film, Lee does a stellar job for earning a PG rating with “The Life of Pi.”

Robert Penalber can be reached at robert.penalber@laverne.edu.

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