By Forrest Hartman
4 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and on demand
Ang Lee won his second best director Oscar last month for his exceptional work in bringing novelist Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” to the screen. The fanciful-yet-poignant story centers on an Indian boy named Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) whose family runs a zoo. When his father decides to move to Canada, he packs the family and all of their animals onto a freighter only to see it sink at sea. Pi manages to escape the foundering vessel but winds up trapped on a lifeboat with a massive Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Even when his situation grows dire, the spiritual Pi refuses to abandon hope; and the boy and tiger learn to survive together. Viewers have the satisfaction of knowing that Pi somehow lives through the adventure because the story is told in flashback. In fact, viewers are told that Pi’s story is powerful enough to make a person believe in God.
Lee tells his tale by mixing high-end special effects with live-action footage, giving the picture an ethereal, dream-like quality. He also makes fantastic use of 3D technology, so anyone with the home theater equipment should opt for the 3D experience.
Even in 2D, “Life of Pi” is wonderful because it drifts easily between genres, playing as an adventure film, a spiritual drama and a fantasy. The movie is able to walk these lines because much of the story is left to viewer interpretation. In fact, it is so cleverly structured that one person may read the film as a sprightly fantasy while another can interpret it as a sorrowful tale of human tragedy.
Sharma is a newcomer to the cinema, but he is asked to carry much of the weight of the picture because he is often the only person on screen. Remarkably, he comes off like a veteran, infusing Pi with so much heart and character that it would be difficult not to invest in the boy’s journey.
Along with Lee’s award for best director, “Life of Pi” won Oscars for cinematography, visual effects and original score; and it was nominated for seven additional honors, including best picture. The recognition is deserved, and it’s nice to see the movie make its way onto home video where it can gain an even wider audience.
The DVD version of the movie has no extras, but the Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D releases contain a still gallery, storyboards and several making-of documentaries.