Life of Pi Movie Poster Image

Life of Pi

Beautiful, emotional, intense story of faith and friendship.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strong themes of the power of faith, friendship, perseverance, and the ability to let go. As a boy, Pi looks for meaning/comfort in many religions, ultimately embracing different aspects of several of them. His faith is tested many times over the course of the movie, but he holds tight to it. The idea that faith involves thinking and questioning, rather than blind acceptance, is put forward. Pi and Richard Parker develop a relationship that sustains both of them, unusual as it might be.

Positive role models

Pi survives against the strongest possible odds, facing down vicious storms, hungry animals, and self-doubt. His faith sustains him through much of what he faces; he's also determined, hardworking, and resourceful, and he cares deeply about his fellow creatures. His father encourages Pi to think critically and question the way things are: "I would rather have you believe in something I disagree with than accept all things."


Several very intense sequences with lots of action, peril, and emotional impact. (Possible spoiler alerts!) Pi loses his family when their ship violently sinks during a raging storm at sea (huge crashing waves, chaos, etc.); he sees the eerie, doomed sunken ship under the water. Later, another terrible storm nearly costs him and Richard Parker their lives. Zoo animals confront, kill, and eat each other at very close quarters; a little blood is shown, and the scenes are upsetting. Richard Parker frequently growls, snarls, charges, and roars at Pi, which could scare younger children. Pi is very upset after he kills a fish for Richard Parker to eat, sobbing at the idea of having taken a life. Early in the movie, Pi's father makes him watch Richard Parker eat a goat (nothing graphic shown) as a lesson in the nature of wild animals. Some yelling/confrontations. Pi finds something very unsettling on a peculiar island.


Mild flirting between a teenage couple; women in swimwear.


A few uses of "pissing," mostly said by other boys making fun of Pi's full name, Piscine. "Curry eaters" is said as an insult.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Life of Pi is an intense, emotional story of survival and triumph against the odds, with themes of faith, friendship, and perseverance. Although it's rated PG, and there's virtually no strong language, sexual content, or blood, this adaptation of Yann Martel's bestselling novel has several very harrowing (especially in 3-D) scenes of storms, shipwrecks, the possibility of implied cannibalism, and zoo animals threatening humans and confronting, killing, and eating each other -- all of which are likely to be too much for younger children (as are the themes of allegory and mysticism, which will require thoughtful parental explanation). Pi is in near-constant peril throughout the story (though it's told as a flashback, so you know he'll survive) and, after losing his whole family, he must negotiate sharing a very small space with a large, unpredictable tiger (one of Pi's tactics involves peeing on part of the lifeboat they share). But through it all, he remains determined and optimistic, relying on his strong faith to see him through every challenge he must face. 

What's the story?

Growing up in India, young Piscine "Pi" Patel (played by Ayush Tandon) is a thoughtful boy who finds himself curious about God in all of his many forms. The strong, if unusual, hybrid faith that he develops serves teenage Pi (played impressively by Suraj Sharma) well after -- spoiler alert! -- he loses his whole family when their ship sinks during a terrible storm and he finds himself adrift on a lifeboat with four zoo animals: a wounded zebra, an aggressive hyena, a friendly orangutan, and the large, unpredictable tiger known as Richard Parker. Eventually just Pi and Richard Parker remain, and together they must figure out how to stay alive on the open ocean.

Is it any good?


LIFE OF PI is a beautiful, emotionally resonant tale of faith, friendship, and perseverance. A runaway bestseller when it was published in 2001, Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi was long considered by many to be unfilmable. After all, one of the two main characters is a tiger, who spends much of the story in close quarters with a teenage human. In the middle of the ocean. But director Ang Lee, who is nothing if not unpredictable himself, has proven any remaining naysayers wrong in spades.

It looks absolutely gorgeous -- like James Cameron did in Avatar, Lee uses 3-D to make the world of Life of Pi an immersive, almost tactile place, from the hummingbirds that flit toward your face to the enormous waves that bear down on you during the intense storm sequences. The CGI is equally impressive; while intellectually you know that it would be next to impossible to get a tiger to do the things that Richard Parker does, there are moments when his fur ripples so realistically that you'd swear he's 100 percent real. While some of the story's twists and themes will probably have more impact on those who haven't read the book, there's no denying that Life of Pi is a powerful movie that's just as likely to make you think as it is to make you shed a tear or cheer in triumph.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about which version of Pi's story they think is true. Why do you think that? Which one do you think the movie wants you to believe?

  • What is the movie saying about faith? Is it necessary to be religious to be faithful? (Or vice versa?) How is Pi's faith tested?

  • How does the movie depict Pi's many losses? Do you think you could overcome the challenges he faces? How do his experiences change him as a character?

  • If you've read the book, how does the movie compare? What changes did you notice? Why do you think filmmakers sometimes change things when adapting books for the big screen?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 21, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:March 12, 2013
Cast:Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Suraj Sharma
Director:Ang Lee
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Wild animals
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril
Awards/Honors:Academy Award

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Parent Written byShivom Oza November 20, 2012

Life Of Pi (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Gorgeous But Less-Than-Gratifying

‘Life Of Pi’ is based on the novel written by Yann Martel. The film revolves around a young Indian boy Pi’s experience of being stranded on a lifeboat with a ferocious Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, for months. The film is an absolute must-watch, just for the visuals. The film is studded with gorgeous visuals, from the opening credits right up till the climactic sequence. Director Ang Lee, along with his team, should be lauded for having the vision to conceive, and execute, such mind-blowing sequences. Performances, most notably Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Ayush Tandon and Tabu, are stupendous. The climax is a let-down. The film should have gotten over 20 minutes before it eventually did. The director chooses to stick to the author’s version of the ending, which was the weakest point in the book. As an adaptation, the film is very good. In isolation, it’s a good film. The ‘by-the-end-of-the-story-you-will-believe-in-God’ peg doesn’t make the cut. Anyhow, the film is definitely worth a watch for the actors, Ang Lee, the visuals and the Royal Bengal tiger! The film starts with the older Pi (Irrfan Khan) narrating instances from his childhood to a writer (Rafe Spall). The writer is looking for a story for his new novel. The writer is told by Pi’s French uncle (Gérard Depardieu) that Pi’s story will make him believe in God. So, here they are. The two discuss Pi’s childhood at length. Revelations about the secret behind Pi’s name (which is a shortened version of the French name Piscine Molitor Patel‎), his discovery of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, his first encounter with the 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger, unusually named Richard Parker, his first brush with love and much more. Pi then moves on to narrate the actual life-changing story to the writer. Pi’s family, comprising his father (Adil Hussain), mother (Tabu), brother (Vibish Sivakumar) and him, run a zoo at Pondicherry. Post the emergency during the 1970s, Pi’s father decides to move with the family to Canada, where he can hope for a better future. While the land at the zoo never belonged to the Patel family, the animals did. So, the family set aboard on a ship to Canada, and accompanying them are zebras, orang-utans, hyenas, the horrific Richard Parker among others. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the ship sinks owing to a storm taking down with it Pi’s family and most of the animals. Pi survives by the scruff of his neck. He hangs on to a lifeboat in the middle of this turbulent weather. His expert swimming skills, which were taught to him by his French uncle, do come in handy over here! By the next morning, Pi wakes up to find a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena and with them Richard Parker on the boat. The tiger ends up killing all the three animals, leaving Pi stranded all alone to fend for himself. The rest of the film is about how Pi survives all odds to survive in the middle of the enormous ocean with a lone raft and a lifeboat with a tiger. The film is as much about Pi’s self-discovery and his bonding with the tiger as it is about the triumph of human spirit! While the story, in itself, doesn’t take your breath away, the stunning visuals most definitely do. All the discrepancies in the plot are subsided by the sheer gorgeousness of the film. Yes, the film doesn’t overwhelm you as much as you’d have liked. In the sense that you don’t really get that uplifting feeling in the end as you would while watching any other ‘triumph-of-human-spirit’ film. The climactic scenes just don’t gel with the rest of the film which is a pity, considering the first hour-and-a-half of the film is so superb! Performances are pretty much the life of the film. The cast, filled with Indian actors, delivers astoundingly well. Irrfan Khan, although a bit wayward with the accent, just blows your mind with his godly acting skills. Tabu’s short but significant role makes you feel that the Hindi film industry just doesn’t deserve this gem of a performer. Ayush Tandon, who plays Pi’s younger version, too is an absolute delight to watch on screen. Adil Hussain is bang-on, yet again. He gets just about everything right, be it the limp, the Gujarati accent, the Tamil diction, the angst-ridden family man portrayal. Even though his role is quite short, in terms of length, the character stays with you long after you’ve watched the film. Suraj Sharma is a genius. He manages to get everything right, be it the dialogue, expressions, body language, mannerisms! It’s his debut on-screen appearance but it just doesn’t show. Suraj’s performance is truly applause-worthy (and hopefully awards-worthy as well!). Ang Lee’s vision is beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination. Some of the scenes in the film, for instance, the opening credits, the Krishna-Yashoda solar system sequence, the island sequence towards the end and all the ocean sequences, are simply mind-blowing. David Magee does a decent job of the screenplay. Mychael Danna’s score is one of the best among Hollywood films that have released this year. The composer has also worked on ‘Monsoon Wedding’, ‘Water’ among other India-based films, so the connection with our music worked very well. The score can be listened to on loop, for hours at end. In the film, it tailors in seamlessly. One major problem with this film is that the director hasn’t rectified what went wrong in the novel. The scenes involving Pi and the tiger are magnificent looking and equally gripping. However, they do overstay their welcome. The length of the film, in addition to the less-than-gratifying climax, does let this film down a bit. ‘Life Of Pi’ is a wonderful story about the triumph of human spirit. The ending was quite ordinary. Go for the film anyway. It's not a masterpiece, but it is pretty close. Shivom Oza
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Parent Written bylive2teach November 24, 2012

Enlightening Movie

I think this was a beautiful movie about faith, preserverance and hope. It had a great message about different faiths and how a young boy begins life with such trust and wonder, It teaches that even though we have great disappointment in life, we should never lose hope or our faith. We are a lot stronger than we think we are. It also teaches friendship in an unlikely source, a tiger. It brings together two very different souls that depend on each other for survival. Truly amazing to watch. 3D images had me wonderstruck! Some of the scenes of the storms are intense, but if you have a mature child, it should be okay. I brought my 10 year old son to see it and he loved it. We definately had some good disussion afterwards.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byDad of preteens November 22, 2012

Beware of intense animal violence.

I am okay with the "official" review as given, except I believe they take the intensity of animal violense a bit lightly. The multiple scenes of animal violence and killing are "right before your eyes" and very intense. My 11 yr old daughter was horrified as each scene played out. I realize that kids need to learn that wild animals will be wild animals, I'm just saying these scenes are violent and intense and suggest maybe age 12 and above rather than 10 and above.. Also, the despair of being adrift in the open Pacific is intense for a child and, as stated in another review, the movie probably overstays itself by several minutes and could have been brought to an end sooner.
What other families should know
Too much violence