LIFE OF PI (2012, Ang Lee): 5/10
Is there anything more smug than religious piety? The flooding bath of spirituality and faith that drown LIFE OF PI would be enough to make any remotely cynical viewer gag, but fortunately the material has been placed in the hands of Ang Lee, who proved with CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON that he could use CGI to make beautiful imagery and not just comic book noise, and with THE ICE STORM and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN that he could tell a story with humanity and just the right amount of sad tenderness.
It’s these qualities that save LIFE OF PI from being sugary dreck, though Lee’s gifts as a storyteller are also accompanied by his sentimental streak and fear of offending — those aspects that helped to sink such efforts as LUST, CAUTION and HULK. So the end result of this family fable is a great-looking, briskly told story with a message that makes you more nauseated than a rocking life boat.
[Plus, I really like cats, and the Bengal tiger in this is awesome — not just because of expertly-done CGI, but through his behaviors and subtle personality. Too bad the fable-ness of the thing even calls the cat’s existence into question. And when a movie is far more convinced that God exists than a cat, I’m going to have some problems with it.]
P.S. Rafe Spall as the writer gives one of the worst performances in a major feature film I’ve seen all year. It’s remarkably terrible.