There is a lot that could go wrong with a big screen adaptation of Life of Pi the 2001 bestselling novel by Yaan Martel. Which may explain why the story of a young boy stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger — juggling deep themes of religion family nature and human existence — has been developed and let go by many big names in Hollywood. For nearly a decade filmmakers like M. Night Shyamalan Alfonso Cuarón and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) have grappled with the project but it wasn't until Oscar-winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) that the film was fully realized.
Lee's Life of Pi is an inspiring film sporting imaginative visuals and pushing the art of 3D in new directions. Even more impressive is what's underneath it all: a character-driven narrative that depicts the book's grand ideas with unexpected tenderness.
Life of Pi dreams big. Thanks to Lee's expert direction and a solid script from David Magee (Finding Neverland) the survivor tale avoids the pitfalls of such an ambitious effort never straying into hokey melodrama. The film opens with a writer (Rafe Spall) visiting an adult Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) at his home in Canada after being told that the Indian immigrant had an amazing life story in need of capturing. "Amazing" may not be enough of a superlative. Young Pi (newcomer Suraj Sharma) begins his life as a regular kid in Pondicherry India growing up on his family's bustling zoo while attempting to fit in with the world around him. His major struggle is with religion — while his father resents faith and his mother is dedicated to Hinduism Pi wants a little of it all. He's Hindu he's Catholic he's Muslim he's a wanderer between all ways of thinking. When he attempts to feed the zoo's tiger only to be caught by his father and disciplined for considering the beast to be anything remotely soulful. It's clear that his upbringing in the lush environment has seeped deep into Pi's way of life.
The main character's passion for the world around him gives Lee the opportunity to direct Life of Pi with a painter's eye. Nearly every shot is exquisitely composed — from bold colors to camera movement to the layers of 3D. This holds true even when Pi's story takes a turn for the worse. Having run into financial troubles the Patel family packs up the animals and heads to Winnipeg on a French freighter. While crossing the Mariana Trench the ship encounters a catastrophic storm that floods it into oblivion (a moment of disaster that rivals the artistic destruction of Titanic). Pi and a few of the animal passengers escape on a lifeboat the glow of his past life slowly fading away into the depths of the Ocean. The set piece is gorgeous but Lee never forgets the impact the incident has on Pi's life. It's indicative of the entire film.
The brunt of the story focuses on the man vs. nature we've seen in films like 127 Hours and Cast Away but in an even more terrifying landscape and played out with an expressionistic touch. Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with the Bengal tiger "Richard Parker " lowering the already minuscule chance of his survival to something unimaginable. He copes building a second raft out of wood planks and life preservers but his survival is a ticking clock. All he can do is sit fish write and pray.
Lee approaches Pi's journey of floating in the middle of the Pacific with a jungle cat like a fever dream. Like the swirling universe he imagines as the residence of his various gods the deserted ocean is a luminescent wonder filled with giant whales glowing jellies flying fish and deep caverns that unlock Pi's wild imagination.
All the while Pi tends to his tiger; their brotherly relationship is the core of Life of Pi. Sharma has heavy material to tackle for his big screen debut but even with its weak moments stands as a tremendous breakout. Over time Pi loses himself to the ocean reaching for understanding and investing more and more in his feline companion. It's a physically demanding performance too — Lee always pelting something new at his young actor and Sharma shining through even the biggest wave. The tiger is another marvel a CG creation that actually performs against Sharma. If Caeser in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a milestone Richard Parker is the next step. On top of the central duo Magee's framing device of Older Pi and the writer works miraculously well thanks to the natural skills of Khan and Spall. Exposition be damned — these two can have a casual conversation that feels as dynamic as the larger-than-life tale they're discussing.
Life of Pi arrives in theaters on November 21 and as all the makings of the perfect holiday film. On a visceral level it's simply a beautiful movie (any live-action film that evokes memories of Hokusai's "The Great Wave" is doing something right). But Lee transcends flashy blockbuster contemporaries by finding a source material where the breathtaking compliments the character's arc. Life of Pi isn't an overtly religious film even though Pi identifies with religions of all kinds. It's about the power of self the religion of humanism. There are few feats of mortal strength as impressive as survival. That's what makes Life of Pi one of the most powerful films of the year.
The first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed adaptation of the Yann Martel novel Life Of Pi gave us a quick glimpse into the rich storytelling to be brought to life in this seemingly-epic new film. Now, as a lead-up to its premiere at the New York Film Festival on Friday, a second trailer has been released on Yahoo. And while probably half of the imagery remains the same, a bigger picture is presented at twice the speed of the last. Hello sensory overload, thy name is Life Of Pi!
The sweeping new clip is set to the ethereal music of Sigur Ros, and finished up with a quick one-two punch from Coldplay's recent hit "Paradise," which adds to the clanging, dazzling beauty the trailer presents.
The film--which will surprise no one to learn is being presented in 3D--tells the story of an Indian boy named Pi and the adventures he endures after a devastating shipwreck strands him in the middle of the ocean on a teeny-tiny boat with a cavalcade of critters for 227 days.
The film stars Irfan Khan, Gérard Depardieu, Suraj Sharma and Adil Hussain.
Life Of Pi will be released on November 21st, 2012.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
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'Life of Pi' First Look: A Man and a Tiger Are On a Boat... — PHOTO
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New York Film Festival 2012 Line-up: 'Life of Pi,' Bill Murray's FDR and More
Kids' movies may be the most difficult cinematic mountains to climb. The filmmakers must cater to two perspectives at constant odds with one another: young ones who find amusement in simplistic stories and broadly painted humor and their parents who need enough of a grounded hook emotional core and clever jokes to keep them from nodding off. Not an easy task.
To see this winning combination pulled off by a 3-D animation/live-action hybrid adaptation of a rather irritatingly sweet cartoon from the '80s…well it's both a shocking and welcome surprise. The Smurfs transcends recent property-grabs like Garfield Alvin and the Chipmunks and Marmaduke by embracing the cartooniness relishing in the fact that it can get away with anything with the help of adorable little blue people.
Smurfs takes the model employed by 2007's Enchanted kicking things off in the colorful fantasy world of Smurf Village and quickly bringing its cheery clueless characters to the terrifying metropolis of New York. After Clumsy Smurf accidentally leads the Smurf-obsessive Gargamel (Hank Azaria) to the hidden mushroom haven of his brethren the bumbling black sheep of the Smurf family finds himself and a few clan members Papa Brainy Grumpy Gutsy Smurfette at the wrong end of a Blue Moon-induced worm hole. The group (along with Gargamel and his cat) find themselves face-planted in NYC's Central Park where they meet Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) yes man to the cosmetic titan Odile. This sets the race in motion—the Smurfs enlisting the help of Patrick to find a way back home Patrick seeking the perfect ad campaign for Odile's new make-up line and Gargamel questing hungrily for a few drops of Smurf essence.
If Smurfs was simply a barrage of fart jokes and pop culture references the movie wouldn't click but by giving each of his characters something to do (seems obvious no?) director Raja Gosnell injects the film with a helpful dose of heart. Along with Clumsy's quest to be more than his name insists Harris' Patrick also has his own problems to overcome. Namely preparing to be a Papa Smurf to the kid he's about to have with his wife Grace (Glee's Jayma Mays). Harris and Mays take their roles here seriously going all out when they need to chase the adventurous Smurfs around town in one slapsticky sequence after another but they put just as much into their smaller scenes. One moment where Papa Smurf sits Patrick down for a "Dad talk" even has weight—a near impossible task for a "kids" movie.
But let's not get too sappy: the movie is funny plain and simple. Azaria makes a living bringing cartoon characters to life—he's a reason why The Simpsons has been on for more than 20 years—and his goofy Gargamel antics are inspired. A recurring gag where the evil wizard continually steps through ventilation steam grates probably read fine on paper but Azaria knows how to play big and doesn't allow any moment of physical comedy to lazily fall through the cracks. On the flip side Harris nails the straight man role and acknowledges that hanging out with Smurfs is just as bizarre as you'd imagine. Think The Brady Bunch Movie for the world of animation.
With solid kids' flicks becoming a rare occurrence Smurfs is a breath of fresh air a film that believes in its own simple message while simultaneously being self-aware of its cartoonish heritage. The movie's a smurfy good time but it takes a particularly smurfy Smurf to let go of cynical baggage and smurf it.
Irrfan Khan, Gerard Depardieu, and Adil Hussain have all joined Life of Pi -- you know, that movie based on that book by Yann Martel about the kid who travels across the Pacific Ocean in a life boat with a Bengal Tiger. Variety reports that Khan will play an adult Pi, Hussain stars as Pi's father, and Depardieu takes the role of The Chef. Directed by Ang Lee, the movie already stars newcomer Suraj Sharma as Pi and Bollywood actress Tabu is in talks to play his mother.
As a lover of the book, I endorse these casting announcements. Khan is an experienced actor who plays a very solid "wise-man" role, and that's the type of person I've always pictured the grown Pi as. And Depardieu? That dude (see left) looks terrifying -- like, I-better-not-let-my-nephews-near-him type terrifying, which is perfect, because The Chef is one scary motherfucker.
Anyway, there's still no word if Tony the Tiger will accept his offer for the Bengal Tiger.