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Life of Pi (DVD REVIEW)

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DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Oscar-Winning Seafaring Tale of Survival Available on DVD

Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) was raised Hindu before converting to Catholicism and Islam all on his own. The spiritually-promiscuous, 16 year-old’s parents reacted differently to the changes in the boy’s unorthodox behavior which included going to church and praying facing east five times a day.

His frustrated father (Adil Hussain) warned, “You cannot follow three religions at the same time,” while his more tolerant mother (Tabu) conceded that “Science cannot teach what is in here,” touching her heart. Both shrug it off as probably just a passing phase, since they’re busy planning the big move of the family household and zoo from India to Canada.

Then, tragedy strikes en route, when their cargo ship capsizes and sinks in the middle of the Pacific, leaving sole human survivor Pi in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Will the precocious believer remain true to his lofty ideals while having to play the faith-testing hand he’s suddenly been dealt?

That’s the pressing question posed in Life of Pi, a visually-captivating tale of spirituality and survival from this year’s Oscar-winning director Ang Lee. Garnering a quartet of Academy Awards, the majestic masterpiece unfolds against a backdrop of exquisite seascapes that look like glorious, hand-painted, pastel panoramas.

From the point of the shipwreck forward the picture is basically a one-man show, ala Tom Hanks in Cast Away (2000). But instead of talking to a soccer ball, the protagonist here has to figure out how to coexist peacefully in very close quarters with a tiger that would just as soon make him its next meal.

The burden of carrying the film falls on the shoulders of first-time actor Suraj Sharma, who does a magnificent job of conveying the existential angst of the beleaguered, ever-exasperated title character. But given the oceanic endurance theme, the picture still feels more like the Hitchcock classic, Lifeboat (1944), than Cast Away.

This remarkably richly-textured adaptation will undoubtedly be a hit with fans of the Yann Martel best-seller upon which it’s based, as well as with anyone merely looking for an entertaining movie. It might be more important to note that during an opening sequence of this flashback flick, we’re essentially informed that what is about to unfold is a story that will make you believe in God.

For all its religious pretensions, however, the thrust of the production revolves less around any overt attempt to convert disbelievers than around Ang Lee’s brilliant use of the screen as a cinematic canvas to narrate a compelling yarn for the ages. Crouching tiger, hidden Siegfried! (sans Roy)

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes and scary action sequences
In English, French and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 123 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: None.

To see a trailer for Life of Pi, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/user/thelifeofpimovie?v=mX2HBsHbNZM

To order a copy of Life of Pi on DVD, visit:  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005LAIIHG/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

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