LIFE OF PI (PG) ***
Great computer-generated images of tiger, but this tale won't suit all tastes
Yann Martel's 2001 novel, Life Of Pi, has long been considered unfilmable and, without advances in visual effects technology, it may well have been.
This is a film in which, for probably half the running time, there is a computer generated tiger on screen that for not one second looks anything other than real.
That is a remarkable achievement, up there with your Gollums and Jurassic beasties in terms of quality and realism, and not one that should be taken lightly.
The fact it is employed to service an ambitious, but ultimately less than fully satisfying story, does not necessarily add credence to the unfilmable debate. But it does perhaps reveal it is the kind of material that simply works better on the page.
That is further backed up by the necessity of an all-encompassing narration to get the story across and accompany the episodes because, in its protagonist Pi, we do not have a character forging his own path, at least initially, but being swept along by fate.
We begin in Canada, where Irrfan Khan's adult Pi is telling his story to Rafe Spall's author in a framing device that may at first seem clumsy, but which actually proves to be central to the film's thematic intent.
"Believe what you want," he tells him, as he recounts how he began life in India as a young boy called Piscine, after his uncle's great love for swimming. Shortened to Pi, he follows three different faiths while his parents run a zoo that houses a tiger called Richard Parker.
Pi does not understand the nature of animals, thinking he and Richard Parker can be friends, but by the time he is a teenager (and played by Suraj Sharma) his family are forced to sell everything and move abroad, transporting the zoo to Canada with them.
This makes for a stately first three quarters of an hour or more, until a stunningly executed shipwreck leaves Pi and Richard Parker on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific, along with a zebra, an orang-utan and a hyena, although the latter three do not last long.
What follows is a battle for survival against the elements, hunger and the tiger, which, while frequently exhilarating, can become repetitive.
Though ostensibly a family film, it acknowledges the violence, the nature of nature as it were, though there are lots of animal antics for kids to coo over, and meerkat fans will be in raptures.
The vast amount of computer-generated imagery is brilliantly realised yet never draws attention to itself, and there has rarely been a film this gorgeous, especially once we are out on the open sea with its fantastic pastel shades.
There is empathy but never real soul as the film rambles towards its point. Because, above all, Life Of Pi is a rumination on the power of metaphors, in both storytelling and religion.
Depending on your point of view, it is either a stirring parable or a nice story, well told, but it is not going to be for all tastes.
Running Time: 127 mins)
Director: Ang Lee
PITCH PERFECT (12a) **** Energy, soul and musical fun make it hard to beat
Rarely does a film announce its intentions so early as Pitch Perfect does when the normal theme music that accompanies the Universal logo at the beginning is replaced by an a cappella version.
That's because Beca (Anna Kendrick) is starting at a new college which is huge on a cappella, with several teams competing against each other and a big rivalry between the all-male and all-female groups.
With aspirations of becoming a musician and producer, Beca joins up, which is the cue for lots and lots and lots of singing, most of it great, injecting energy and soul even into songs that might not be everyone's cup of tea to begin with.
Even as it takes pains to distance itself from the accusations, Pitch Perfect probably wouldn't exist without Glee, while the witty script gives it a Mean Girls vibe. Kendrick is its snarky heart and Rebel Wilson gets the funniest lines as Fat Amy.
But this is about vibrant and joyous singing and its exuberance carries it through. While you couldn't accuse Pitch Perfect of being great cinema, as an infectious slice of musical fun it's pretty hard to beat.
Running time: 112 mins
Director: Jason Moore