Hyenas, zebras and tigers… oh my!
Now that I think about it, this movie has more in common with the adventures of Dorothy (and her little dog too) than I would have originally thought.
Upon viewing the original teaser for the mysterious film named Life of Pi, I was indeed intrigued but had no idea what the movie was supposed to be about (nor did it motivate me enough to use my lazy fingers to Google it).
While the full trailer released later in the year kept my curiosity intrigued, I still didn’t have one clue what the movie was about and that’s ultimately how I entered the theater. I exited the theater in close to the same shape as I went it.
Being that it was Thanksgiving weekend and all of my family was in town together, some members of the Outlaw tribe who will remain unnamed (cough, mom… cough, cough cousin Matt) seemed hell-bent on seeing the 3D flick opening weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t want to see a movie about an Indian boy and an angry tiger in a row boat floating aimlessly around the ocean. Let’s just say it wasn’t my first choice at the time. Alas, it’s the holidays and family comes first… or was that the customer? Bygones.
WARNING: The following verbiage has some spoilers. I do my best to not give everything away, but some plot details will be divulged below. Consider yourself warned.
If you’ve seen the trailer, the first surprise of Life of Pi is how it starts. That is due to the fact that the whole movie begins with our main character as an adult, Pi Patel (played by Irrfan Khan), retelling the story of specific time periods from his childhood to a curious writer (played by Rafe Spall).
The nameless – and emotionless – writer has heard through the Indian grapevine that Mr. Patel has an extraordinary story to tell, and it just so happens the writer is looking for a novel to ink.
Thus begins the tale of a very slow upbringing, that while somewhat interesting, didn’t do anything but almost put me to sleep. There were a few chuckles, the most notable coming from the story Pi tells about his unfortunate full name – think urinary function – and his efforts to shorten it.
Things start to kick into gear a little more as Pi gets into the details of his family’s voyage to move their home base in hopes of a better life out of India. To do this, Pi’s father is forced to sell all of the animals from their family’s zoo – all of which are with them on a ship headed out to their new locale.
Unfortunately, the three hour tour quickly goes awry due to the mother of all storms (think Katrina meets Sandy) and the huge cargo ship is sunk quicker than the career of Roseanne Barr.
Our sweet little Pi (pun intended) looks to be the lone human survivor that manages to escape via a life boat, however, just because he’s the only human doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other company. Also escaping the chaos are a few zoo inmates, among them a zebra, orangutan, hyena, and a tiger by the name of Richard Parker.
The circle of life quickly takes effect until the two lone survivors are our hero Pi and Tigger’s less tame cousin Richard Parker. The rest of the film is basically the story of how teenage Pi (Suraj Sharma) and Richard learned to survive, while also not killing each other as a late-night snack in the process.
If the goal of the filmmakers was to make you feel like you were stranded out in the middle of the ocean for over seven months like our two castaways, then mission accomplished. I literally felt I was floating at sea for several days along with Pi for the rest of the two-plus hour running time.
Speaking of castaways, on more than one occasion I definitely felt like I was sitting in on the sequel to the infamous movie of the same name. Except here, Pi was the Indian Tom Hanks and Richard Parker was the very much alive and very much carnivorous version of Wilson. While it wasn’t quite as eerily quiet as Castaway, outside of the narration, the Life of Pi definitely lacked its fair share of dialogue.
Despite both movies having the similar survivor at sea story line, a major difference between the two were the use of 3D and generous use of computer effects throughout the film. I can confirm that the effects are top-notch and the movie itself is cinematic beauty. Having seen the movie in 3D as well, I’m happy to report that it’s also well done, if not a bit underwhelming.
I guess all of those commercials saying this was the next Avatar had me hoping for something a little more decadent and eye-popping, but in the end it just seemed to be one of the movies that you forget you are even wearing $1.25 3D glasses for two hours. Of course, in hindsight, it was probably a wise decision considering the more realistic style and settings used compared to James Cameron film about aliens that mate through their pony tails.
In spite of the slow start and overly slow pace of the movie, I remained invested in Pi’s road to survival and the incredible bond he formed with his his furry sidekick-at-sea. That is up until the very last 10 minutes of the movie where out of nowhere comes… (drum roll please) the twist ending.
Ever since Usual Suspects and M. Night Shyamalan – who coincidentally happens to be born in India – pioneered the art of the twist ending, not much surprises me these days. I’m not sure if it had to with the type of movie or just my mood at the moment, but this one really did catch me off-guard. Although, it’s with great sadness that I have to report it wasn’t a happy one.
Had the movie been awful I’d ruin the surprise to spare you all the house down payment and two hours of your life it will cost to watch the movie in theaters. Nevertheless, there were some redeeming qualities that make the film interesting enough to watch all the way through in order to get to the final payout.
Another thing I learned after the fact (which seems par for the course for this outlaw) is that Life of Pi was based on a novel published back in 2001. If you are one of those whom have read it, then the ending probably won’t have the same impact as it did for me.
So you’re probably wondering, did I like the damn movie or not. Weird as it may sound, I’m wondering the same thing myself. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt when I left the theater, and after some internal debate I’m not quite sure now either. (One thing I do know is I personally have no interest in revisiting it to find out.)
However, the movie, based on the original content, was meant to do that so I’m not beating myself up about it. Part of me wants to tell you that this is definitely a thinking person’s movie about faith, survival and leaves you trying to determine the reality of it all much in the same way Inception did. The other half of me wants to tell you that the ending is anti-climactic and in some ways depressing to the point where you feel like you kind of wasted 120 minutes of your precious time on this planet.
What version of my summary do ‘you’ like better?