Why is it that fresh, smart story lines have taken a backseat to visual gymnastics at kids’ movies lately? The bigger the budget, the more tricks we see, but this often means less in the way of character and plot development. That is until “Life of Pi,” the new film based on the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. It does have modern special effects; Pi also has a story line that soars, making it one of the best kids’ movies, or any movie, of this year.
The movie begins with a grown man, Pi Patel, narrating his life story to an author, promising his saga will “make anyone believe in God.” Pi takes us back to years before, during a voyage across the Pacific to a better life with his family, when a monster storm orphaned Pi at sea. Marooned with only the caustic Bengal tiger from his family’s cargo-packed zoo, we see that Pi’s obstacles are just as much an odyssey of the mind as they are the physical feats of being lost at sea for 277 days.
The great coming-of-age classics come to mind while watching this film — “The Black Stallion,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “E.T.” It’s about a boy whose adventures teach him about life and its big questions too.
Children 7 and older will identify with Pi as a regular kid, but his compassion, commitment and honor make him a role model, too. There are many themes that can be discussed with kids, but faith and the importance of saying good-bye come first to mind. There are also pictures of Indian culture during the first chunk of the film kids would benefit from seeing.
The movie is rated PG for some intense scenes, like a shipwreck and when animals turn on one another for survival.
I recommend this movie for all kids 7 and older with parental supervision.
“Life of Pi” rated PG
Running time: 2 hours 5 min.
Julie Samrick is an El Dorado Hills resident and the mother of four young children. She is founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to current children’s issues.