Oscar-winning director Ang Lee took four years and spent a fortune to make his latest film, "Life of Pi." The wait was worth it, as "Life of Pi" seems certain to be an Oscar contender this year.
"Life of Pi" is a marvel - so fresh and original - it's unlike anything you're apt to see on the big screen anywhere this year. It's a tale about a boy and a tiger that embraces its fantastical nature with gorgeous cinematography, stunning CGI work and sharp 3-D effects.
As almost a way to show off, the film begins in a veritable Garden of Eden, a sumptuous zoo set in a beautiful park in India.
All this visual splendor is in support of a very simple, dangerously simple, story. For most of this two-hour plus movie, it's just a boy named Pi marooned in a lifeboat with a surly Bengal tiger.
Over the course of the film, Pi learns to negotiate his way around this tiger in very close quarters, how to stay alive under the most trying of circumstances. Typical of the quiet, quirky charm of this film, the tiger is named Richard Parker.
"Life of Pi" flirts with mystical, New Age pabulum but pulls back just enough to avoid saccharine homilies.
In the end, it's more about the art of storytelling than any life lesson. Yes, it's all hard to believe, impossible in fact. And that makes it all the more enchanting.