Could Life of Pi become an award-winning epic? Directed by Ang Lee, it’s a big screen adaptation of the popular novel from Yann Martel. On the surface, it has many things working against it. It’s main character is played by an unknown (Suraj Sharma), and most of the runtime is dedicated to him on a boat with a CGI tiger. Yet thus far, the film’s scored an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and is proving to be a promising, but not perfect addition to Lee’s resume.

The Good:

  • “Lee lulls the viewer into the same doldrums that Pi experiences, then jolts his world with natural phenomena: bioluminescence for one, a breaching whale for another, a flock of flying fish for a third. There are more, sometimes just in the nick of time, sometimes the opposite. But Life of Pi, despite a two-and-a-half-hour running time, never drags or suffers from a lull.” – [Marshall Fine, HollywoodandFine]
  • “While we witness much on screen, the film rests on what Pi is feeling — his doubts, his fears, his faith. That we feel so keenly what Pi feels is a credit to Sharma in his first, and hopefully not his last time on screen, his eyes as endless as that night sky. The emotional pitch of this journey comes in the stream-of-consciousness conversations he conducts with Richard Parker and with God. For as much as Pi is searching for land, he is searching for something to believe in. In that shipwrecked boy’s struggle for answers, Lee has given us a masterpiece.” [Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times]
  • “Lee, the Oscar-winning director of “Brokeback Mountain,” working with 3D for the first time, turns “Life of Pi” into a liquid dream, propelled by images of people, fish and other creatures swimming almost as if they were equals in a sunbaked underwater paradise.” [John Hartl, The Seattle Times]

The So-So:

  • “The story is very nice. So is newcomer Suraj Sharma, as the teenage Pi. But both he and the movie kept this viewer at a distance, my spiritual self unroused. Watching the director’s first 3-D project, I found myself drifting off, thinking, ”How did Ang Lee make that CG tiger look so excellently tiger-y? How did he make the stars so twinkly?” And then I thought, ”Gee, the director has worked so hard on this, and so meticulously. What craftsmanship!” But that’s not the same thing as being swept away.” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW)

The Bad:

  • Life of Pi is careful not to anthropomorphize him [the tiger]. He’s a formidable beast, a potential killer, and the film’s best representation of its central question of whether there’s some design to existence or if it’s just a collection of chaotic and sometimes awful events. Unfortunately, Life of Pi also prods at this question during periodic returns to the present day with the grown Pi and Martel, and the scenes create the sensation of an author leaning over your shoulder as you read to point out all of the symbolism he doesn’t want you to miss.” [Alison Willmore, Movieline]

Overall:

Life of Pi has won over critics. Lee’s visual storytelling with minimal characters and locations is its saving grace. For the most part, the film’s only downfall appears to be the author. Their presence is an unnecessary distraction. If you can ignore them, you’ll have no problem enjoying the movie. Life if Pi is a worthy addition to Lee’s roster, which includes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution.

Life of Pi is playing in theaters now.

Will you be seeing Life of Pi this holiday weekend?