It is not Ang Lee's fault, neither is it Yann Martel's, but towards the end of the 3D movie adaptation of Life of Pi comes a moment that will be ruined for British audiences by the sudden appearance in their heads of an annoying Russian voice saying "SIMPLES".
**TEENY TINY SPOILER ALERT**
When Pi's boat finally hits land it is a small floating island entirely populated by meerkats. Tens of thousands of meerkats all scampering about, standing on their hind legs and doing their very best impression of Alexsandr Orlov from the Compare the Market commercials.
It is a scene which breaks what is otherwise a pretty magical spell. I hate 3D films. I wear glasses so have to put the 3D pair over my normal pair which is both uncomfortable and annoying. I am all too aware of the colour loss the grey lenses generate and I honestly do not feel the technology adds anything significant to the experience. I have not seen a single 3D movie that wouldn't have been just as good (or bad, in some cases) in 2D.
Life of Pi just might be the exception. Might. I am not prepared to commit just yet.
What I will say is that it is by a mile the most beautiful and imaginative use of 3D that I have see to date. It doesn't show off (apart from one hummingbird who zips out over your head in the opening credits) and instead creates a depth which is almost hypnotising at times with two or three scenes potentially on their way to becoming classic moments of cinema: Pi underwater looking at the sinking ship, the flying fish and the phosphorescent whale.
But enough of the fancy stuff, is the story any good?
Well, the novel it is based upon has sold over 7 million copies which would suggest that it was a pretty decent story to start with and Ang Lee hasn't mucked about with it too much, adding just a few tweaks to the India section and contracting the end somewhat, neither of which are a problem and potentially enhance the narrative for this cinema version.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening a couple of weeks ago hosted by Yann Martel. A decade earlier I had been invited by his publisher to join their table at the Booker Prize ceremony (what a memorable evening that was) and it was nice to see the story come alive on the big screen. The author held a Q&A afterwards and was refreshingly frank about his work and the movie itself and talked a great deal about the fact that Life of Pi is a book about religion and tackles the subject without any irony. I had managed to forget that until I sat through the film which keeps that element of the book intact and doesn't shy away from it at all.
Life of Pi is a stunning film which I would encourage you to watch on the big screen even if, like me, you are not a fan of the 3D format. It isn't quite an all-round classic - I enjoyed it without being as moved by it as I was by Lee's earlier films Eat Drink Man Woman and Sense & Sensibility - but it is streets ahead of most of the stuff thrown at the big screen these days and is a genuinely unforgettable experience.
The day after seeing the film I started reading Martel's controversial follow-up, Beatrice & Virgil. Tune in later today to find out what I thought of that.