Matthew Lickona 8 p.m., Dec. 17
Life of Pi
If Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's novel had been nothing more than the story of a teenaged boy who survives a shipwreck only to find he must share his lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, it might have been a very fine - and often visually astonishing - adventure movie. But for better or for worse, Life of Pi aspires to be much more than that. For better: the adventure is strong enough to bear the weight of some larger meaning. For worse: that meaning is spelled out and hammered home in a pair of talky bookends. This isn't a film about a boy lost at sea; this is a film about humanity adrift, about the importance and significance of storytelling, about religion and God him/her/itself. That doesn't have to be a bad thing; it doesn't take much to see the tiger as death itself, an immutable and inescapable fact that nature imposes on every person. The boy struggles against it. He tries to trick it. Eventually, he realizes he must make peace with it. And somewhere along the line, he realizes that the certainty of death is what has helped him cling to life. Storytelling! Significance! Ditto the boy's struggle with faith: he prays, and things happen. Are those things answer to prayer or just things that happen? Don't worry about answering; the film is happy to do that for you. The viewer does get to make a choice at the end, but it's not a choice about anything as exalted as the existence of God. It's more about where we find consolation during our own adventure in the lifeboat. With Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma. 2012.