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Life of Pi

Popcorn Rating


Movie Info


Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril


Adaptation, Action/Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy


November 21, 2012


Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, Tabu, Addil Hussain, Rafe Spall


Ang Lee


Twentieth Century Fox

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Review: Life of Pi

By Chris Carpenter Director of Internet Programming - When Yann Martel's book Life of Pi hit bookshelves in 2002, many Hollywood studios took a keen interest in the emotionally compelling novel only to move on shortly thereafter. The consensus was any adaptation for the silver screen could never do it justice. A who's who of ‘A' list directors, including M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Sixth Sense) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie), considered the possibilities, but ultimately said 'no thanks' in the end.

It is easy to understand why. With prose that is as rich as the visual imagery it conjures, the book that has sold more than seven million copies is equal parts survival story, a heart-warming coming of age narrative set in India and a rudimentary course in comparative religions all rolled in to one. But for whatever reason, eight-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) didn't flinch. He decided about four years ago that this was a movie that could not only be made, but be successful.

Lee was right. Life of Pi is a visually stunning masterpiece in 3D that will inspire as much for its imaginative storytelling as it does for technical merit. Furthermore, it is a film that you will not want to end as Pi's brilliantly constructed screenplay does a tremendous job of adapting the written page to the big screen.


The son of a zoo owner in Pondicherry, India, young Piscine Patel (Pi) is a seemingly happy, well-adjusted youth who is not without his share of growing pains. Teased about his first name as well as constantly trying to keep up with his older brother, the naturally curious and bright Pi has a rather unique interest in the matters of faith. In fact, Pi is exposed to four different religions in his formative years -- Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and atheism. Each one has an almost intoxicating appeal to the carefree teenager. Even though he was raised a Hindu, Pi is also drawn to Christianity and Islam. Claiming he ‘just wants to love God', Pi desperately tries to understand God through the lens of each religion.

It is about this time that his father decides to sell the zoo and move his family to Canada due to political unrest in India. Keeping a few of the animals, Pi and his family board a Japanese freighter to carry them to their new lives in North America. After a few days at sea a terrible tempest of a storm capsizes the ship, sinking it and most of the inhabitants on board. All except Pi and four animals – a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

With his innocent past quickly fading into the murky depths of the ocean, Pi discovers it is every man and beast for himself aboard a smallish lifeboat designed to survive a few days at sea, not the better part of a year.


Life of Pi is a classic story of man vs. nature. As we have seen in other films such as Cast Away, the protagonist is left to fend for himself with only his wits, a tremendous will to live and sometimes a few meager rations. What sets this movie apart from others is that Pi faces all of the aforementioned challenges but must also contend with a ferocious, carnivorous animal vying for the same food supply. The tension is palpable as Pi figures out how the two can not only co-exist on such a small craft but eventually live in a sort of cautious harmony.

With vividly lush scenes filled with luminescent wonder, Ang Lee makes the ocean come alive with scenes featuring glowing jelly fish, flying fish falling into their lifeboat like manna and an enormous whale majestically dipping above and beneath the waves.

In his professional acting debut, Suraj Sharma transcends onscreen as the teenage Pi, blending emotionally charged acting with a physically demanding performance. He interacts flawlessly with the computer generated tiger, a technical marvel in its own right all the way down to its whiskers rising and falling with every breath. There are moments in this movie where one-sided monologues between Pi and the tiger seem like actual conversations between fellow voyagers.

Not to be forgotten, the adult and childhood Pi's played respectively by Irffan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Ayush Tandon also stand out. Khan, a Bollywood star, turns in an understated performance that serves the movie well.

While Christian audiences will be thrilled with the amount of onscreen time devoted to the cause of Christ and what it means to believe, they will also be quite disappointed as Islam and Hinduism receive equal representation. However, when viewed through the eyes of evangelical Christianity, you can't help but be encouraged by the flickers of faith being projected onscreen.

Life of Pi is rated PG for emotional thematic content and some perilous action sequences involving water and instinctual animal behaviors. This movie is highly suitable for families in regard to the lack of profanity, drug use and sexual content, but please be prepared to answer questions about other religions with your children. If handled properly, Life of Pi could be a good discussion starter in regard to galvanizing the tenets of Christianity.


Filled with thought-provoking moments of self-discovery, redemption and God's unrequited grace, Life of Pi is an exploration into whether a person truly believes what they say they believe. For Christians, that is whether Jesus Christ went to the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice for sinners to be saved by grace. Unfortunately, this quest is played out for the other three religions as well.

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