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Life of Pi

(2012)
Sometimes you just dont get it. You watch a movie that everyone praises to the rafters and you scratch your head and say, What did they see that I didnt? This was my experience with this movie. Pi follows the story of Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma as a teenager, Irrfan Khan as an adult), an inquisitive man who has opened himself up to spirituality in an unusual way (he adopts three religions as a youth, finding no dilemma in reconciling them). The bulk of the movie is chiefly concerned with a trip that Pi took with his family moving from India to the west where there is a shipwreck and he and a tiger named Richard Parker are the only survivors; the story, as adult Pi relates to a journalist, is a wondrous tale of survival, where Pi must learn to co-exist with the tiger, and they encounter all sorts of strange and magnificent natural phenomena (whales, a massive school of flying fish, a luminescent swarm of jellyfish, a mysterious island filled with meerkats, etc.) and how he ultimately survived the journey. Its a visually sumptuous film, and director Ang Lee drives home the isolation Pi feels by stranding him in magnificent vistas (several times the ocean calms and acts as a mirror, so Pi seems to be sailing on the sky). The beauty cant conceal, however, that a long stretch of the film is a young man on a raft tied to a boat talking to a tiger who doesnt respond, or course and that starts to drag after a while (or at least it did for me). Pis world may be dazzling, but he doesnt really do much, and you know hell survive because we first meet him as an adult. Theres very little tension, which isnt an accident, but aside from the arresting environment, theres not a lot going on here. Toward the end, when the entire tale is questioned, I felt cheated, as if I had been told it was all a dream sequence (a narrative device I particularly dislike), and I felt like I had spent two hours in a boat with a boy for nothing. Thats not to take away from Suraj Sharmas impressive acting he spends most of the movie utterly alone on the ocean and delivers an effective performance, reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway. Most of the rest of the cast was excellent as well, theyre just not in the movie after the first half hour. People love and praise this movie, but for some reason it didnt reach me; I found it plodding and not terribly engaging. Your mileage may vary (and many peoples does), but I didnt find all that much to recommend here. Several articles I read praised the 3D, which is a factor you lose at home (well, the vast majority of us, anyway), but without an arresting core, Im not sure all the visual bedazzlement in the world can make a movie interesting. September 9, 2013

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