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Mmmmm ... 'Pi': Early reviews in for Ang Lee's adaptation

September 28, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
  • Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," the story of a young man shipwrecked at sea with a Bengal tiger, premieres at the New York Film Festival.
Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," the story of a young man shipwrecked… (Rhythm and Hues / 20th Century…)

Ang Lee's CGI-saddled "Life of Pi" premieres tonight at the New York Film Festival, and, as you might expect from a 3-D adaptation of a novel full of allegory and computer-generated critters, the early reviews are all over the map.

Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy, a longtime booster of "Pi" director Lee, called the film a "gorgeous and accomplished rendering of the massive best-seller." Lee's "fingerprints are at once invisible and yet all over the film," McCarthy added, "in the tact, intelligence, curiosity and confidence that characterizes the undertaking."

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The movie, like the Yann Martel novel, follows a young man (Suraj Sharma) shipwrecked at sea with a Bengal tiger. Given Lee's resume, you knew some critic would utilize a certain play on words in a review. Variety's Justin Chang obliges:

"A literal crouching tiger is merely one of many visual wonders in Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi,'" Chang wrote, "a gently transporting work of all-ages entertainment that melds a harrowing high-seas adventure with a dreamy meditation on the very nature of storytelling."

Chang has issues with the the movie, though, noting it lacks "a certain in-the-moment urgency" and that it "could have used a bit more grit, substance and a touch of the grotesque."

"Even its warm-hearted plea for religious faith feels, in the end, like so much pantheistic fairy dust," he said. 

Apparently, though, a little of that pantheistic powder lodged itself in HitFix's Kris Tapley's corneas. "Excuse me while I wipe my 'Life of Pi' tears," the awards blogger wrote. "It's clunky at times but overall quite affecting."

Unless it's not ...

"It never came together for me," Movie City News' David Poland wrote, after prefacing that he had laced up his Sherpa boots, all prepared to go on a spiritual journey. "Truly not for a minute."

We'll be seeing the movie Monday night, handkerchief at the ready, just in case those "Life of Pi" waterworks start flowing. We'll follow up shortly afterward, assessing the film's awards-season outlook.

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Glenn Whipp

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