When the hype surrounding a film focuses on its “gorgeous visuals,” there’s reason to worry. This usually means that we’re in for a “Avatar”/”Hugo”/”Tintin” experience where the film looks great but the story is duller than National Public Radio. Thankfully, though, that’s not even close to the case with “Life of Pi,” the film that just on Ang Lee a well-deserved directing Oscar (his second).
From the opening scene, the narrative grabs your attention as a forty-ish Pi (Irrfan Khan) tells a story to a disillusioned novelist desperate for a story to tell. Pi delivers in a big way with an exciting, harrowing, and, ultimately, very moving tale of how as a teenager (a superb Suraj Sharma) he found himself alone on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific with only a ferocious Bengal tiger for a companion.
If you think you know how the story ends just because Pi survives, think again. David Magee’s perfectly structured screenplay (based on the novel by Yann Martel) is not only filled with wonderful surprises but moments that will linger with you for days.
There’s no question the film is beautiful to look at, but that’s the least of its charms. What we have here is the rare Hollywood offering filled with humanity, love of family, a wonderfully innocent teenage romance, and religious faith.
“Pi” is also rated PG, and therefore a perfect family film that deserves to become a family classic.