We meet Pi's family, who don't understand his attraction to three of the world's main religions, including not only Hinduism but Christianity and Islam, as well as the fierce zoo tiger Richard Parker, who ravages a goat in front of Pi's eyes. Pi's belief in both God and the soul of a tiger play out as he uses his wits (and a life boat instruction manual) to outsmart Richard Parker on a life boat for 227 days. "Thank you Vishnu, for introducing me to Christ," says Pi at one point. "God wasn't finished with me yet," he says at another.
As I suspected when I first saw footage at CinemaCon in April, this movie will play for critics, audiences and awards givers all over the world. It has the right elements: globally popular literary source (7 million copies sold); heart-warming family story from an A-list Oscar-winning director ("Brokeback Mountain"); and epic VFX. While "Life of Pi" will be a leading contender for Oscars, the film's technical accomplishments should certainly be recognized (especially "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" D.P. Claudio Miranda), as well perhaps as actors Sharma and Kahn. Richard Parker deserves a nomination as well.
One irony is that departed Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman backed this risky venture, but Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler and producer Gil Netter ("The Blind Side") also deserve credit for standing behind Lee's quest to make this remarkable film. "It has a gigantic visual effects component," Gabler told me as she was trying to convince Fox to give it the greenlight. "You can't put a live tiger in a boat with a child. It has elements of 'Castaway,' when the kid is alone in the boat. You don't need language to convey what's on the screen. We need to make the movie for the whole world."
That they did.