Movie Review: Life of Pi

LifeOfMultiCultiby 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)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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9 Responses to Movie Review: Life of Pi

  1. Ed Cottingham says:

    >>I’m generally a fan of these multi-culti arthouse foreign films.
    ***
    A film in that category that took me totally by surprise a couple of years ago was Gloomy Sunday. Set in Budapest before and during WWII, it featured the most achingly-beautiful woman I have ever seen in a film, Erika Marozsán. It had everything: the elegance of pre-war Eastern Europe, Nazis, an engaging plot that was not overly elaborate nor dependent on chase scenes or gun fights, gourmet food, a story of deep human emotion, and last but not least, Miss Marozsán without her clothes in a very tasteful but seriously erotic scene. (Yes, her boobs were beautiful but so was everything else about this woman: her heart, her demanor, her personality, her soul-deep, twinkling eyes. Central to the drama was the fact that all the male characters were in love with her. And so was I after a few minutes.) This film came out in 1999 but completely escaped me. I read somewhere that although most of America somehow missed it, it had played continuously for a year at a movie house in Boston. I guess that’s a compliment. Anyway, it may be an art house film with subtitles, but it was not especially an intellectual’s film. It was a great, sad story beautifully and lovingly put on film.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m on it! If I can find it, I’ll review it.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        Netflix has it on DVD and Amazon streams it for $4 (not an Amazon Prime freebie). Just in case you do watch the streaming version where navigation is not so convenient and perhaps not even possible, I urge you to give the brief opening scene your close attention. Almost all of the film is a flashback framed by the opening and closing scenes. The surprising plot twist is heavily dependent on what one sees in that opening sequence to which you return at the end.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ed, so far I’ve watched the first 51 minutes of Gloomy Sunday. This was a good pick. The only problem was that I had my TV turned up a little loud while watching it. Two neighbors jumped out their balconies. There’s just something about that song.

      And Erika Marozsán is perfectly cast as the most desirable woman in the world — and perhaps that you can have if you simply ask. Hmmmm. Never thought of that before. Does this only happen in movies or is it true that guys (like that German) will ask a woman to come home to their country and marry him — to a girl he barely knows? I don’t get out much, so maybe that is how courtship is handled in a lot of places.

      Yes, this is definitely the kind of multi-culti arthouse foreign film that I like. Thanks for the recommendation. I hope the rest of the film holds together. Nice score too. And this film is proof that not everyone has the idiotic taste of Hollywood. I’m somewhat loathe to recommend or even review a film such as this. It’s like explaining the Mona Lisa to a room full of children stilling doing finger painting. The West’s good taste just isn’t there anymore.

      • Ed Cottingham says:

        Delighted that it’s working for you, Brad! You picked a good stopping point. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that you have remaining only a very few minutes of the happier, more rhapsodic portion of the film. With the war looming, we’ve got a more conventional, plot-driven second half coming, although no few guns or bombs and we never leave the restaurant behind. Enjoy.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Ha! [Spoiler alert] I didn’t figure the piano player would make it through. He was hanging by a thread there for a long time.

          And it’s interesting that you have this SS Colonel playing kind of a for-profit Schindler’s List.

          And, frankly, I’m surprised that Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” didn’t have a similar effect on people as that one song in the movie did.

  2. Ed Cottingham says:

    >>SS Colonel playing kind of a for-profit Schindler’s List.
    ***
    My thought exactly. I was looking back at Amazon reviews and really unloaded on a woman [vague here to avoid spoilers] who did not want her precious daughter to get the idea that mass-murdering thieves deserve whatever rough justice that anyone might dish out to them.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I don’t believe you, Ed. You have to be making this up. But I know you’re not. Dennis Prager is constantly eye-rolling as stories such as that. An entire generation or two has been taught that all the problems of the world are caused by people judging. So what do you do? You simply stop judging.

      I actually find it hard to believe that anyone could be this simple-minded. I really do. The human brains is just so complex. It’s capable of making fine distinctions.

      But what we do see the Left doing is causing people to un-think. They’ve dumbed everyone down.

  3. Ed Cottingham says:

    >>An entire generation or two has been taught that all the problems of the world are caused by people judging. So what do you do? You simply stop judging.
    ***
    This idea of not judging is one of the sickest memes that has taken hold in our soft-headed civilization, IMO. And, frankly, I hold our Christian churches with their relentless messages of forgiveness, leaving judging to God, and mothering and nurturing to be largely responsible for this madness. An important Christian message is that every sinner one encounters might be just another Paul who has not yet been awakened. Poppycock. And corrupting to the values of the culture. Most of our Christian establishments have become populists, always identifying with the weak and downtrodden and completely losing sight of the necessity to hold human beings accountable — here and now, on this earth — for their conduct and, often, for their circumstances.

    I would say that this is at the heart of what is wrong with Latin culture, particularly Mexico, which is the anti-Germany. The “motherland” rather than the “fatherland.” Of course, the father-centric character of German culture has been seriously repressed following the loss of generations of young men and huge societal guilt. But it will come back…for better or worse.

    Mexico is a shrug…and a hug from your mother. And that is increasingly what the U.S. is. Too many moms…too few dirty Harrys.

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