For all intents and purposes, The Tiger and the Snow is Roberto Benigni remaking Life is Beautiful.
Early in the movie, he is courting a woman played by the actress from Life is Beautiful (his real life wife) in the same flamboyant, manic, comic, exaggeratedly romantic manner. Then the characters’ lives are disrupted (by the Holocaust in Life is Beautiful; by the Iraq War in The Tiger and the Snow) and the Benigni character must use his full range of energy, resourcefulness, humor, and bravado to keep everyone’s spirits up and save the day.
So the whole time I was watching the movie I was comparing it to Life is Beautiful, and it’s frankly just not as good. It’s a minor league version of that movie.
The humor isn’t as sharp (though I did laugh at a few things; for some reason the kangaroo in the dream sequence broke me up), and the serious bits aren’t as emotionally powerful.
I mostly like the Benigni character. Being so passionate, so committed to the love of your life, and really to life in general, is very cool. It’s the kind of approach that guarantees you’re going to get everything you’re capable of getting out of life, that you’ll be left with no regrets.
The object of his ardor, on the other hand, is really something of a cipher when you get right down to it. It’s almost like the movie wants you to focus solely on his love itself and not on whether the object of it somehow deserves such extreme passion. Throughout the film, she’s mostly cold, coy, playing hard to get, watching him bemusedly, or unconscious. You really don’t get inside her to see what the fuss is about.
The latter portion of the film in Iraq is marred by the fact that it’s pretty easy to anticipate what’s going to happen. Plus it’s a bit more slapstick than Life is Beautiful, and I found that less effective. Life is Beautiful has its moments of outrageousness in the concentration camp, but always they fit with, if not add to, the tension of the environment; you never forget you are in a concentration camp. The Tiger and the Snow allows itself a higher silliness factor.
I didn’t get the suicide scene, by the way. I mean, I can certainly speculate about it, but I didn’t think the movie made the reasons for it clear at all.
The film tries for a bit of a City Lights ending. Nice, but nowhere remotely as emotionally powerful as that classic.
In conclusion, this film’s heart is in the right place, and I did enjoy the main character’s passion for the love of his life because I’m enough of a romantic to be a sucker for that stuff, but on the whole The Tiger and the Snow remains a watered down version of Life is Beautiful.