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"LIFE OF PI" (PG)
IRRFAN KHAN, SURAJ SHARMA
Only the ending--which will leave some moviegoers scratching their heads--takes the glow from this stunning visual achievement from director Ang Lee.
Those who worry that they'll tire of watching two hours of the protagonist, Pi, floating at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger needn't worry.
It takes the first act to get him there, and there are flashbacks that break it all up once the long ordeal begins.
And whether you see it in 3D or not, the incredibly rich images of everything from breathtaking sunrises and sunsets to an island full of meerkats are captivating.
Though the ending is true to the book, many will wish the film gave a bit more background or at least a hint at what it all means.
Regardless, filmgoers will be amazed at the action Lee manages to squeeze into the lifeboat and the small raft Pi constructs near it.
Just as fascinating is the battle of wills between this religiously curious young man and the Bengal tiger that wind up sharing a life raft after their steamer goes down in heavy seas on the way from India to Canada.
Young Suraj Sharma is achingly real as Pi. You feel his pain, his anguish and eventually, his joy at what he believes is divine intervention for him and the tiger.
From storms to wilting sun to a deadly island that has to be seen to be believed, the challenges and wonders Pi encounters make this a unique adventure.
Those who have read the book will be better able to interpret the twist that's central to the story's end, but that's a small quibble about what is otherwise a truly stunning achievement in film.
Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril. 125 min. [MC, RA, RF]
"RISE OF THE GUARDIANS" (PG)
CHRIS PINE, ALEC BALDWIN, JUDE LAW, ISLA FISHER, HUGH JACKMAN
There are a few fun and inspired moments in this tale that unites Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, Jack Frost and others in an effort to save kids from the Boogie Man.
But there aren't as many bright spots as you would expect. This is a tale that lacks the childlike wonder it badly needs.
HOW WE RATE 'EM
H Don't waste your time.
HH Nothing special
HHHH A must-see