Jordan Chodorow reviews movies on a scale of zero to four stars. Find reviews of all the latest releases here, along with a searchable database of all reviews from January 2012 to today.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Life of Pi
Repetitive, boring and devoid of meaning, Ang Lee’s surefire bomb “Life of Pi” makes you feel only relief when, after over two hours, it finally ends. It’s a thoroughly unenjoyable, at times deeply distasteful mash-up of dime-store Indian mumbo-jumbo (the narrator sounds like he gets most of his life lessons from $9.99 swami-head night lights) and the same soulless CGI spectacle that made Lee’s equally wildly overpraised “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” such an empty experience.
Rank beginner Suraj Sharma, game if lacking in subtlety, plays Pi, the narrator, who with his parents and older brother board a ship for the first leg of their move from India to Winnipeg. The ship sinks during a brutal thunderstorm, and Pi ends up alone on a lifeboat with a menagerie of animals (the family had owned a zoo in Pondicherry): a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker (the cutesy-poo story behind its name being perhaps even less interesting than Pi’s). Almost all of the animal scenes – and one or more of them are in every scene thereafter – were generated on a computer, and only a few impress (a fake 3D whale that jumps out of the ocean put me in mind of an ad for Pacific Life insurance).
The movie becomes a survival story with a zoological backdrop that at times tends to repel. There are scenes of the tiger devouring a live goat and later urinating on Pi; of rats and wombats crawling up on Pi; of the hyena killing the zebra and the orangutan; of thousands of fish descending on Pi and the tiger, like the rain of frogs in “Magnolia,” until Pi’s almost whited-out in fish shit. I found myself sighing audibly a couple of times. It’s just not a fun movie to sit through, and the framing device – in which the adult Pi relates the story to a blocked writer who bumped into his guru somewhere – adds only running time and removes any suspense as to the outcome. (Mostly, they sit around exclaiming what a great story it is – trying to convince us?)
“Life of Pi” is fundamentally no better than “Eat Pray Love” and proves again that mystical claptrap is not made profound by a Deepak Chopra accent. Its vapid profundities and cafeteria-style approach to spirituality are best suited for the Kabbalah set.
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