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Rated PG for some violent and intense sequences and mild language
posted Nov 30, 2012 - 10:23:37am
Beautiful camerawork, sweeping scenery and gorgeous visual effects drive Ang Lee’s cinematic adaptation of Yann Martel’s modern classic Life of Pi, and on that front, the film does not disappoint.
But unfortunately, a book adaptation is, by its very nature, limited to the vision of the source material’s writer, and Martel’s vision was somewhat narrow.
When the book was published in 2001, its philosophical musings were naturally backdrops to the astounding tale of survival. They provided a good framing for the story about a boy on a lifeboat with a tiger, but all the context anchored the plot.
In the same way, Ang Lee and script adaptor David Magee fall prey to clunky exposition leading to this improbable, but astounding, scenario. Is it fair to judge the movie based on the parameters set by the book? You bet it is, especially since Lee took very little license with changing the plot: Lee sacrifices nothing from the book, even to the detriment of the film’s flow and emotional power.
But this movie sure is pretty.
Popcorn represents how fun a film is to watch—how funny it is, how exciting the special effects are, and how enjoyable the story is on repeated viewings. The perfect popcorn movie would be one that never got stale regardless of how many times you’ve seen it.
Needless to say, if you’re inclined to see films in 3D, Life of Pi is worth the extra few bucks. From the shipwreck through the end of Pi’s tragic, inspiring journey, cinematographer Claudio Miranda turns the film into a barrage of beauty scene after scene.
But the context takes away from the film. It’s framed as a story grown-up Pi (Irrfan Khan) tells years later to a visiting writer/plot device (Rafe Spall) about his experiences, and the scenes in the “present” are dull, uninspired. In these scenes, as in the book, the philosophical undertones become as subtle as a kick to the solar plexus: There’s no nuance. Without this narrative frame, the film (as the book) would have been so much more intriguing, more powerful, a rumination on religion and peace even in the most trying times. With it, neither Lee nor Martel gives any credit to the audience.
Still, Life of Pi is a good movie, even if it’s better seen than heard. Any fan of Martel’s book will find a beautiful and faithful adaptation, and anyone looking for pure spectacle will be dazzled. Oftentimes in movies, and especially late in the year as awards season approaches, it’s the story or dialogue that makes up for a lack of exciting visuals. Life of Pi is, refreshingly, just the opposite. Its philosophical musings may be shallow, but its spectacle runs deep as the ocean.
Stars & Popcorn grade: 3 1/2 stars, 5 popcorn.
— Hunter serves as editor-in-chief for movie-review website Stars and Popcorn. To learn more about Stars and Popcorn, visit www.starsandpopcorn.com. Send e-mail to Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsored by Liebe Entertainment Group, Marketplace 8. Click here to see showtimes for Life of Pi
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