by Brad Nelson
Come, join me in my little universe of people who don’t like movies that suck. I’m generally a fan of these multi-culti arthouse foreign films. You want esoteric and mysterious? I can do esoteric and mysterious. Not many could live through and enjoy the movie Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring but I did.
And Life of Pi started with some real potential. It was feeding on the faddish multicultural theme of “all cultures have something unique to offer, everything is good, it’s all a wonderful tapestry of choices.” We’ve been bred now to appreciate the supposed innate wisdom of the “person of color” and to find something enchanting, spiritual, and ethnically wonderfully about the “diversity” of cultures — with the exception of our own traditions, of course.
And it was interesting seeing young Pi run the table on the various religions as he delved into them, quite in contrast with his father’s modern “secular” smarty-pants view that “science” is all that one needs, boy. Wonderful. I was all set up for a deep, introspective, and challenging exposition on the various pros and cons of religion versus “reason.”
And intersecting with this is the idea of the real vs. the ideal. And the movie starts out with a great scene along those lines. For instance, as much as it might feel all warm-and-fuzzy to think that the boy had some special rapport with the caged tiger (conservatives who understand nature as red in tooth and claw will love this scene), that doesn’t change the reality. That was a great scene in which the father shows the son the harder facts of life via the tethered goat which he puts within reach of the tiger. And this scene might be shocking to those libtard types who camp among grizzly bears and then get eaten by them (as has happened a time or two in Alaska). But a tiger isn’t just a big kitty cat.
So, particularly after watching this jarring scene, I was settled in for a very rich and riveting adventure that would surely show both sides of this question — religion and reason — even as this searching soul in the form of the yute, Pi, continued to delve into his own search for meaning as he transitioned to adulthood. Perhaps he would learn some of his father’s wisdom and put aside some of his naive idealism. Or perhaps instead he would learn that the right kind of idealism is what matters.
And then a friggin’ run-of-the-mill lifeboat movie broke out. I kind you now. Yes, the filmmakers tried to couch it in the shtick of “one of two stories could have taken place, so take your pick.” But it was, in essence, an entirely different movie, and not a terribly interesting or plausible one. And that’s a shame because I was really enjoying the first movie, the one about the boy’s search, religion itself, reason, and growing up.
Adding to the problem was that the grownup Pi (who tells the story in a series of flashbacks) was a bit of a dull character while his younger self (played by Suraj Sharma) was a charming boy, well-acted. And I’ve seen a few movies of this Eastern type that have gone “mystical,” leaving you wondering what is a dream, what is the spirit world intersecting on reality, and what is just a character’s delusion. And that can work.
But such a thing is not easy to pull off, and this movie pulled it off at all, particularly considering that it did not set the stage for this fanciful type of quasi-reality. And even if we are to accept this movie as metaphor, it was a fairly boring and improbable one at that. The interaction between the boy and the tiger on the lifeboat (along with the other animals) made little sense.
But, gosh darn it, we’re supposed to be irrevocably moved and amazed because at the end of this film we hear that (hold onto your hat) the story could have been one of two truths. Well, knock me over with a feather, but to have an engaging metaphor you first have to earn it. And this movie never earned the premise of this metaphor. We’re told this is a search for god. But at the end of the day, we find nothing but the couched smart-pants idea that the real smart people are the ones who know it’s (presumably religion) all just a story. The further implication is (and this certainly would feed to the conceits of the low-information multiculti yute crowd) that the Really Smart People are the ones who talk in postmodern esoteric gibberish (as the adult Pi basically does). You say very little that actual makes sense, but with a wink and a nudge between each other, it is a common agreement that you not only make sense but are brilliant. And I think that describes the thinking that went into this movie to a tee.
Even so, the theme they attempted might have worked as the premise for a movie. But it fell flat, both because the older Pi was such a dull actor and because the movie itself did little to build on the theme. It’s not enough to simply present vague metaphor and then tie a ribbon on it at the end and say “That wraps it up.” No, it wasn’t wrapped up. Even if it was a theme I disagreed with, I would have respected a movie (and probably enjoyed it as well) if it could have developed the theme. But instead we get this general “people of color” hocus-pocus that is supposed to be enough to bamboozle us into the automatic warm-fuzzies. (And if you actually got warm-fuzzies form this film, then we might have to do an intervention on you.)
Well, I love the warm-fuzzies too, but a film has to deliver first before I get them. I still expect cinematic development. But what I got instead was a lifeboat movie (and not a very interesting one at that) tacked onto what could have been a quite charming theme that was brought forth at the start of the movie about a young boy’s search for what the world had to offer in terms of meaning, faith, reason, and more.
My general attitude is probably where I differ from those who have grown up in multiculturalism as the norm. I don’t automatically throw gold stars at these themes merely because they are multi-culti elements to them or because they contain exotic extra-Western stuff. These movies have to earn their stripes, and this one did not. But for those who were in the proverbial place of the white preppie yuppie writer who sat across the table in jaw-dropping awe at the adult Pi’s story (and that is surely the intended audience), you’re going to love this one. But if you expect a movie to fulfill some basic cinematic requirements (such as themes and plausible character development), then you may well be as disappointed as I was. I give this 2 multi-culti self-esteem stars out of 5. • (1086 views)