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April 23, 2011
Review - " Water for Elephants "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Water for Elephants
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph
Waltz, Paul Schneider, Jim Norton, Hal Holbrook

Though the film stars the almost always successful box office
champ Reese Witherspoon, the most powerful heartthrob of
the moment Robert Pattinson, and one the most lovable
baddies of the last decade Christoph Waltz, the film falls

It's always hard for me to write a review for something that I
neither loved nor loathed. Such is the case for the movie
adaptation of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants (which I
haven't read), starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson
and Christoph Waltz. It has talented actors, nice production
values, and beautiful costumes but for some reason doesn't
connect emotionally.

Set during the Depression, it's the story of Young Jacob
(Pattinson), a Cornell veterinary science student who joins
the circus as the vet after a family tragedy leaves him
homeless. He falls for the star attraction, Marlena
(Witherspoon), who's married to the evil Machiavellian boss,
August (Waltz). Jacob struggles between his need for a job
and the horror he feels when he sees August mistreat the
animals. In the end, Jacob has to decide what kind of life he
wants and whether he can give Marlena the one she

Though the movie has one heartthrob and two Oscar
winners in it, Tai the elephant, as Rosie, steals every scene
she's in. She's more expressive than Pattinson, makes us
gasp in wonder, whimper in pain in sympathy, and clap
with delight. She has more chemistry with the humans than
the leads have with each other, which is ultimately the movie's downfall.

This isn't the first time I've seen Pattinson play a normal person without any wizardly or vampiric powers and he's rather dull.
There's no extra oomph factor that makes an actor truly memorable on screen. Meanwhile, the normally spunky Witherspoon
is subdued as the trapped Marlena. They both look great - her slinky gowns are to die for - but there's absolutely no heat
between them. When you can't feel the love in a love story, it's a problem.

Waltz's performance as the capricious August is masterful, the actor made me tense from bracing for the violence that might
erupt from his character at any time without warning. I can't think of many actors who could've played this part as well as he
did. But it's similar to what
Waltz did in Inglorious Basterds
and therefore didn't feel as
fresh. Hal Holbrook does a
nice job framing the tale as an
elderly Jacob telling the story
to a modern circus worker, and
by rights he should be
narrating the whole thing, not

It's been decades since I've
been to the circus, I did enjoy
the few glimpses of the show
under the big top. I marveled
at the acrobats and Rosie
doing her tricks. But once the
lights in the theater came up,
the movie left me with an empty
feeling, as if the circus had
moved on and left me wanting