Life of Pi

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Short takes

Not recommended under 12; parental guidance to 14 (violence, disturbing themes and scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Life of Pi
  • a review of Life of Pi completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 December 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes
Children aged 12-14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Life of Pi
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild survival themes
Length: 121 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Life of Pi, based on the bestselling novel by Yann Matel, is presented as a series of flashbacks told by an adult Pacine “Pi” Patel (Suraj Sharma). The story begins with Pi (Avush Tandon) as a young boy living with his family in a zoo in Pondicherry India. Pi is very precocious and curious about God and religion with Pi developing his own hybrid religion based upon the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim faiths. As a teenager, Pi (Suraj Sharma) is content with his life, but all that changes when Pi’s father Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain) announces that he intends to sell all of the zoo animals and use the proceeds to relocate the family to Canada.

Pi and his family, together with the zoo animals, are packed aboard a giant freighter headed for Canada, but disaster strikes in the form of a violent storm that sinks the ship. Pi survives and is set adrift in a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a vicious hyena, a female orang-utan and a wild 450 pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.  The survivors fight each other to stay alive until only Pi and Richard Parker remain alive. As the days, weeks and then months go by Pi is witness to breathtaking events at sea and participates in fantastic adventures. Meanwhile the tiger Richard Parker provides Pi with the will to survive as Pi must become resourceful at both sharing his space in the lifeboat and providing food for himself and Richard Parker.        


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Shipwreck; loss of family; survival; murder; cannibalism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, much of it involving animals, with some blood and gore, including:

  • After the cargo ship sinks we see brief images of zoo animals sinking under the water and being attacked by sharks and Pi is also circled by sharks in several scenes.
  • To teach the young Pi a “life lesson” his father ties a live goat to the outside bars of the tiger’s cage and forces Pi to watch as the tiger attacks and kills the goat. The goat screams out in fear. The actual kill occurs off screen and we do not see the tiger drag the goat through the bars, but we see the tiger’s jaws locked on to the goat’s throat and the tiger dragging the goat away.   
  • While Pi is aboard the lifeboat with an injured zebra, a hyena and an orang-utan, the hyena savagely attacks the zebra and orang-utan. The hyena bites the zebra on its haunches and hind legs and the orang-utan on its shoulders, and we hear Pi shouting at the hyena in distress. The zebra and the orang-utan fight back but are eventually killed.  
  • The hyena attacks Pi but the tiger leaps out from under a canvas covering the lifeboat and grabs the hyena in its jaws, killing it.
  • One scene depicts Pi hallucinating during which he sees a surreal scene depicting a whale shark swimming beneath his lifeboat, and a giant fish being attacked by a giant squid with the fish transforming into  zoo animal. Pi also hallucinates seeing a giant fish with a mouth full of long sharp fang-like teeth.    
  • Pi catches a large fish and violently strikes it on the head several times with the blunt end of a hatchet; the actual killing blows occur off screen. Pi stares down at the dead fish with tears in his eyes and thanks his god for giving him the fish so that he could survive.
  • There are brief images of the tiger eating several meerkats.
  • One scene depicts a violent storm with lightning striking the surface of the ocean. The rough seas hurl Pi into the water a number of times while lightening strikes the water all around him. The tiger is swept back and forth along the bottom of the water-filled boat.  
  • In an emotionally disturbing scene the adult Pi tells how instead of there being tiger, a hyena, a zebra and a orang-utan on the lifeboat with him it was really his mother (orang-utan), a sailor with a broken leg (zebra) and the ship’s cook (hyena) with Pi being the tiger. We hear Pi telling that the sailor’s broken leg became infected with the cook amputating the sailor’s leg, and that the cook’s intent was not to save the sailor’s life but to end it. We hear that the cook then cut up part of the dead sailor’s body for bait and also ate part of the dead sailor’s body. We hear that the cook punched Pi in the face and when Pi’s mother intervened, the cook stabbed and killed Pi’s mother while Pi witnessed the event and saw the knife protruding from his mother; we hear how shark’s took his dead mother’s body. We hear that in an act of revenge, Pi used the same knife that killed his mother to stab and kill the cook and that the cook knowing he had gone too far let Pi kill him.      

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The storm and shipwreck scenes involve Pi screaming for his family, who are trapped below decks and swimming underwater through flooded corridors in an attempt to reach them.  A variety of distressed zoo animals stand all over the decks of the storm-battered ship and are washed into the water. Pi is nearly drowned as his life boat falls into the ocean and capsizes.
  • Several scenes depict seasick animals vomiting onto the deck of a lifeboat.
  • A humpback whale with a gigantic gaping mouth jumps over Pi’s lifeboat. When the whale splashes down, the waves capsize the lifeboat, hurling Pi into the ocean.
  • One scene depicts thousands of flying fish flying a couple of metres above the surface of the ocean and hitting Pi in the face and body.
  • Pi cuts up a large fish and eats it raw.  He feeds large pieces of raw fish to the tiger; we see some blood and gore and hear the sounds of crunching as the tiger eats the pieces of fish.
  • One emotionally distressing scene depicts an emaciated looking Pi sitting and holding the head of the extremely emaciated looking tiger in his lap. Pi tells the tiger “We’re dying Richard Parker, I’m sorry”. Pi cries over the tiger and prays to his dead parents, telling god that he is ready to die.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by many of the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes and particularly the implications of Pi’s telling of the true story.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Very mild verbal flirting between a teenage Pi and a teenage girl
  • People wearing brief swimwear
  • In an attempt to train the tiger and mark his territory, we see a back view of Pi urinating on the canvas covering of the lifeboat. Immediately following Pi, we see the tiger walk up to Pi turn its back on Pi and spray urine in Pi’s face

Use of substances

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Very mild verbal flirting between a teenage Pi and a teenage girl
  • People wearing brief swimwear
  • In an attempt to train the tiger and mark his territory, we see a back view of Pi urinating on the canvas covering of the lifeboat. Immediately following Pi, we see the tiger walk up to Pi turn its back on Pi and spray urine in Pi’s face

Coarse language

There is some infrequent low-level coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Pi’s true name in the film was Pacine, with Pi’s classmates using his name to humiliate Pi. For example: “Are you pissing right now”; “Look he’s pissing”; “Pissing everywhere”; “No pissing in the school yard”. We hear one of Pi’s teacher’s call Pi by the name Pissing.   

In a nutshell

Life of Pi is a magical and emotionally powerful drama. The film is visually beautiful and the effects are enhanced in 3D. It portrays faith, friendship and perseverance, and is targeted at adolescents and adults. Parents should be aware that the film does contain emotionally disturbing themes and some scary and disturbing scenes. For this reason it is not recommended for children under 12 and parental guidance is strongly recommended for younger teens.

The main message from this movie is that:

  • When pushed to the limits of endurance and perseverance people are capable of both great acts of self sacrifice and friendship as well as acts of great evil.  

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Perseverance, resilience, inventiveness and self-sacrifice: Throughout the film Pi demonstrates perseverance, resilience inventiveness in the manner in which he survives his hardships and finds means for both himself and the tiger Richard Parker to survive against insurmountable odds. Pi repeatedly demonstrates self-sacrifice by risking his life sharing the limited space aboard the lifeboat with a wild tiger in order to save the tiger’s life.   

Parents may wish to discuss why Pi invented a fantastic tale of magic and beauty rather than telling the terrible and horrible truth. Parents may wish to discuss which tale people would find easier to believe and why.