Critics Consensus: Life of Pi Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Rise of the Guardians should please kids, Red Dawn strikes out, and Silver Linings Playbook is Certified Fresh.

by Tim Ryan | Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! This week at the movies, we've got a furry castaway (Ang Lee's Life of Pi starring Suraj Sharma); folkloric fighters (Rise of the Guardians, with voice work from Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin); teen guerillas (Red Dawn, starring Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson); and unhappy singles (Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence). What do the critics have to say?

Life of Pi

87%

On paper, Life of Pi shouldn't work -- it's a 3D adaptation of a supposedly "unfilmable" magic realist novel. But critics say director Ang Lee's film achieves the near impossible -- it's a phantasmagoric technical achievement that's emotionally rewarding as well. Newcomer Suraj Sharma stars as a young man who survives a shipwreck only to be set adrift in a lifeboat -- with a Bengal tiger. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Life of Pie is so visually sumptuous, and newcomer Sharma is so strong, that occasional moments of so-so dialogue are easily forgiven. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we count down Lee's best-reviewed films.)

Rise of the Guardians

74%

A sort of Avengers for the elementary school set, critics say Rise of the Guardians is stylish and briskly paced, but it's only so-so in the storytelling department. When a nightmare king named Pitch attempts to spread darkness all over the world, it's up to such unlikely heroes as Santa Claus, Jack Frost, and the Easter Bunny to save the children from misery and despair. The pundits say Rise of the Guardians should please small children with its whirl colorful action, and adults will find it to be a decent, if not groundbreaking, animated romp.

Red Dawn

12%

The original Red Dawn may have strained credibility, but at least there was a Communist Bloc to fear in 1984. Critics say a lack of topicality is only one of the problems with this new Red Dawn, which features some decent action sequences but gives a short shrift to character development and general logic. A foreign enemy has invaded a small town in Washington, and a group of teens that includes Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson wage guerilla warfare in order to save their community -- and America itself. The pundits say Red Dawn makes precious little sense most of the time, and a solid cast of up-and-comers can do little with its generic dialogue. (Check out our 24 Frames gallery of the stars of Red Dawn.)

Silver Linings Playbook

92%

In the movies, characters fall in love all the time, but critics say they're rarely as interesting as the folks in Silver Linings Playbook, a sharply written, terrifically acted film about fascinating people in dark situations. Bradley Cooper stars as a down-on-his-luck guy living with his parents after his release from a mental institution. He gets an unexpected boost when he meets a mysterious young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who seems to offer a solution to his troubles. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Silver Linings Playbook represents another triumph for director David O. Russell, who makes difficult material work splendidly with help from strong performances and witty dialogue.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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