"Life of Pi" ***1/2
RATED PG (emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril)
DIRECTOR: Ang Lee
CAST: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Rafe Spall
"Life of Pi'' is one of those lyrical, internalized novels that should have no business working on the screen. Quite possibly, it wouldn't have worked if anyone but Ang Lee had adapted it.
The filmmaker who turned martial arts into a poetic blockbuster for Western audiences with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' and made gay cowboys mainstream fare with "Brokeback Mountain'' has crafted one of the finest entries in his eclectic resume in "Life of Pi,'' a gorgeous, ruminative film that is soulfully, provocatively entertaining.
Lee combines a lifetime of storytelling finesse with arguably the most artful use of digital 3-D technology yet seen to bring to life Yann Martel's saga of an Indian youth lost at sea with a ravenous Bengal tiger aboard his small lifeboat. It's a delicate narrative with visceral impact, told with an innovative style that's beguiling to watch and a philosophical voice that compassionately explores how and why we tell stories.
Our playful, not-always-reliable narrator here is Pi Patel, played by newcomer Suraj Sharma as a teen and as a grown man reflecting back on his adventure by Irrfan Khan ("The Amazing Spider-Man"). As a youth, Pi, his parents and brother set out to Canada from India, where the family runs a zoo in a botanical garden. Pi's father brings along some of his menagerie on their voyage, including a tiger named Richard Parker with which Pi had a terrifying encounter as a boy.