Life of Pi came close to including all four of my absolutes. Watching a kid trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger is a lot like a prison theme. Spoiler alert: I assume that by the middle of the movie the tiger turns Pi into his lifeboat bitch and trades him to a porpoise for a pack of cigarettes. That's how I would have written it.
The movie also has plenty of drowning, and risk of drowning, and plenty of animals in jeopardy. And as I watched the movie, I felt as though someone had tied me to a chair and tortured me. I literally walked out of the theater shaking. I didn't feel right for about an hour.
I won't say Life of Pi (first 45 minutes) is the worst movie I have ever seen. But that's only because I have also seen Les Miserables, Titanic, The English Patient, and I love You Phillip Morris. There's a lot of competition for the worst movie of all time.
Just to be clear, I think Life of Pi is extraordinarily well-made in the filmmaking sense. That was no surprise because director Ang Lee also made my favorite movie of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That accomplishment was largely cancelled out by his next award-winning movie, Brokeback Mountain. But still, the man knows how to make a movie.
The natural problem with reviewing movies is that every moviegoer has a unique set of preferences. To be fair, I can easily imagine Life of Pi appealing to certain types of people. For example, serial killers are known to enjoy watching animals get injured. If you're a serial killer, or you just hate animals, this is definitely the film for you.
Sadists and sociopaths will also enjoy this film. The 3D technology is used so effectively that it's like you are right there watching people and animals suffer. The only way it could be better is if you were causing the suffering yourself while making the loved ones of the victims watch. So on that level, Life of Pi is a great film.
The movie isn't as unpleasant to watch as it could have been. If Steven Spielberg had directed it, the film would have been three hours long and Pi would have needed to surgically remove his own infected eye using nothing but saltwater and an oar. Spielberg likes to include at least one scene in every movie that makes me never want to see another movie as long as I live. I call it the Schindler's List scene.
A recent exception to the Schindler's List scene is Spielberg's movie Lincoln. I highly recommend Lincoln. But be advised that the film is more like the best documentary you've ever watched than a typical movie. If you aren't interested in politics and history, it might not work for you. Personally, I loved it. It has no prison theme, no drowning, no animals in jeopardy, and no one tied to a chair to be tortured. That's what I call a movie.
[Note: I realize that many of you will say I should have stayed to the end of Life of Pi because that's where the payoff is. For those of you who would recommend that approach to moviegoing, you should try banging your head against a brick wall because when you stop, WOW, it feels terrific.]