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“Life of Pi” (2012) Review

Life of Pi poster

With all of the awards it received, along with its widespread critical acclaim, I’m sure many have at least seen previews for/heard about Life of Pi. As a film lover, I felt it was a duty of mine to see a film which took home four Academy Awards, despite my hesitance toward it. After having seen the film for myself, I must disagree with the majority of praise the film received – it seems to me that every year there is one film that receives exaggerated praise. This is not to say Life of Pi is a bad film, per se, but it is just not that great of one.

Life of Pi tells the tale of Pi, from his childhood, to his unbelievable (and by that I mean extremely, extremely coincidental) adventure at sea after being stranded by a shipwreck, to his adulthood. The tale is structured as a narrative told by the adult Pi to a youthful writer who was told Pi’s tale would make him believe in God. This structure and tale are wrapped around some “deep” themes and storytelling, something I, quite frankly, could not find in the film. Sure, there’s some symbolism here and there, and the ending tries to make the whole story into something seemingly deeply philosophical – this ending did honestly manage to somewhat save the plot from being tolerable to just decent for me, but still faltered by falling into the trap of over-explanation. Worse yet, there were some scenes that became almost comical due to their poor design (scenes that were meant to be serious). Still, the story manages to hit capture some decent moments, but there are too many flaws in the plot that keep it from being highly engaging.

With the plot faltering, Life of Pi has to fall back on its visuals to capture the viewer’s attention. Here is an area that the film largely succeeds in – it is absolutely stunning at times. The cinematography put together by Ang Lee and crew is excellent, with some exemplary CGI modeling and animation work. Despite the unbelievable tale being told, the film’s visuals manage to bring to life every detail. Still, at times the crew seemed to be trying to accomplish too much as various pieces of the film seemed slightly rough around the edges (a minor gripe for such great animation). Along with this, there were multiple scenes that failed to add anything to the plot and seemed to be presented only for the sake of showing off the films visual effects, causing these scenes to feel hollow and forced.

While "Life of Pi" may be visually ..., the film never amounts to much in ...

While “Life of Pi” may be visually stunning, the film never amounts to much in terms of its story and characters.

With the visuals earning their praise, another area I found failing to live up to its accolades was the soundtrack (awarded Best Original Score at the Academy Awards). I really didn’t notice any pieces that really stood out to me, and overall, it felt like a pretty standard soundtrack for this adventurous type of film – in other words, it didn’t enhance the film, or even really make its presence known at many points. Despite this, I do have to again give credit to the sound crew for the effects and mixing for the film, as the animals, storms, and other complex pieces sounded great.

Life of Pi produced an oddly similar experience to Slumdog Millionaire for me (a film that received such great praise, but I found very lacking). For all its complex visual work, the film lacks where it matters most – its plot. It may be a magnificent visual feast, but this is one adventure I did not really enjoy. I am sure there are moviegoers that Life of Pi will appeal to, but there was too much style, and too little substance (actual substance, not superficial substance) for me.

Final Score: 4.8/10

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Life of Pi just didn’t do much for me as a film. I’m no movie snob, and I realize that, but I enjoy most movies from animated to sci-fi to action and everything in between, but this movie was almost laughable. However, the only really enjoyable parts of Life of Pi were the visuals and many CGI scenes. Some of these scenes were absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, but really were not necessary for this film, seeming to be just trying to distract the audience from the unbelievable plot and story line of the film. Still, it did catch me a few times with some emotions scenes, especially Richard Parker, but probably only because I’m a female animal lover who hated to even imagine the torture that animal faced (even if it was fictitious).

I was upset that this film had received so much praise and many awards this season, that I had to see it. After seeing it, I feel even worse about the hype it received. There were much better films out this past year that deserved those awards over this film. I’ll give the film praise for the visual effects, but story line, soundtrack, and acting were just not at the level I would expect for such a film so highly acclaimed. You can watch it for yourself and see what you think, but don’t forget to let us know in the comments!

Second Opinion Score: 4.0/10

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One thought on ““Life of Pi” (2012) Review

  1. Aside from all the metaphors and the imagery, the film has almost everything that one would want in a film. It may be heavy-handed, but it always dazzles. Good review.

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