Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

2011, PG-13, 122 min. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 29, 2011

In this adaptation of Sara Gruen's book-club favorite Water for Elephants, Twilight heartthrob Pattinson stretches to play a character with a pulse – but just barely. Orphaned in the film's opening minutes and suddenly cash-poor in 1930s New York, Pattinson's Jacob hops a train in the dead of night only to discover he's caught a ride with a traveling circus. A former veterinary student, Jacob's animal expertise quickly makes him indispensable to ringmaster-with-rage-issues August (Waltz, in a colorless do-over of his Inglourious Basterds' charismatic diablo). Witherspoon plays August's star attraction and wife Marlena, and her Jean Harlow platinum-blond bob out-vibrants everything else in this consistently murky picture (all the more curious considering cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto has done such lush work for Ang Lee and Alejandro González Iñárritu). No one would mistake the Benzini Bros. Circus for the Greatest Show on Earth – the Depression-era traveling troupe is a junker compared to the gold-standard Ringling Bros. – but still, a film has to try pretty hard to render lions and tigers and trapeze artists so uniformly underwhelming. And that's just the sideshow entertainment: The love triangle that determines Water for Elephants' dark trajectory is just as joyless and wanly dramatized.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Francis Lawrence Films
Red Sparrow
Erotic spy thriller is Fifty Shades of Gorky Park.

Richard Whittaker, March 2, 2018

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
As the series ends, we wonder what we'll do without our Katniss catnip

Josh Kupecki, Nov. 20, 2015

More by Kimberley Jones
Booksmart
The kids are better than alright in Olivia Wilde's raucous, resonant comedy

May 24, 2019

The Sun Is Also a Star
Is it destiny that brings these two lovers together, or the bland demands of a YA adaptation?

May 17, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Water for Elephants, Francis Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle