Water for Elephants

Rated PG-13 120 min. 2011

As soon as Water for Elephants ended, my primary reaction was that most people’s mothers would like it. That’s not a slight against the film, merely an indication of the type of movie we’re dealing with here. It’s well-made and often slick, heavy on romance, and it trades in black-and-white morality, doing everything you expect — and in some cases want — it to do. But at the same time, this perfectly well-produced veneer of austerity keeps the film in need of chemistry and fireworks. It’s a tale told through the narration of Jacob (Hal Holbrook, who transforms into Robert Pattinson in flashback), who, during the Depression, ran off and joined the circus after the death of his parents. Jacob, who almost finished veterinary school, soon finds work treating animals at the behest of circus boss August (Christoph Waltz), a showman and businessman so cutthroat that he throws people off his train in order to save money. August’s wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) is the show’s star attraction, and of course, this being the type of movie it is, Jacob finds himself falling for her, despite that sort of romantic entanglement being completely forbidden. The screenplay oscillates between the far-fetched and the mawkish, while the characters’ motivations always feel at the mercy of the script’s needs rather than anything organic or realistic. Then there’s the cast, which isn’t quite so bad (despite a real lack of chemistry between Witherspoon and Pattison) as it is unexciting.

Film Credits

Official Site: www.waterforelephants.com

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writer: Sara Gruen and Richard LaGravenese

Producer: Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff and Andrew R. Tennenbaum

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, James Frain, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider, Ken Foree, Tim Guinee, Mark Povinelli and Scott MacDonald

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Water for Elephants

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