Information for Parents
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 12+
Beautiful, emotional, intense story of faith and friendship.
What 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.
- 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?
The good stuff
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."
What to watch for
Violence: 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.
Sexy stuff: Mild flirting between a teenage couple; women in swimwear.
Language: 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.
Consumerism: Not applicable
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable