Life of Pi deserves to be an Oscar-winning film. It is stunningly beautiful -- one of the few films I have seen in 3D where the extra $3-5 has actually been worth it. So, please Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, shower this film with awards. Just don't shower them with any of the stuff that counts to those of us who can't understand the inside-baseball categories and probably never will. I do have some minor criticisms of the composition and performances in the film.
It dragged, particularly in the beginning. The best actor in the film was probably the Bengal Tiger that gives Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) his purpose while he is stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific. Seriously, only Irrfan Khan, who played the adult Pi recounting his fantastical tale, really distinguished himself here.
But, you know, sometimes you just don't like the story and that's enough to wreck a film all on its own. Life of Pi is a parable supporting religious faith. Its narrator (and main character) claims at the outset that he can prove the existence of God. That meant it was always going to be a problem for me, as someone who isn't religious. It's not merely the religion, though. After all, Ben Hur is one of my favorite films, and it's plenty Jesus-y.
No, the problem to me is that the message was so muddled and clumsy. As someone who is irreligious, faith seems a simple principle (or a principle that brings an element of simplicity to the world) that is quite difficult to stick to because it is always being tested, because doubt is so easy to come by. Life of Pi isn't simple at all in this regard. It purports to prove the existence of God by asking us which story we like better -- the fantastical or non-fantastical one -- and assuming that the answer is a.) obvious and b.) enough. My guess is that even for many people with great religious faith, it might not suffice.