Water for Elephants (2011) starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Jim Norton, Hal Holbrook, Mark Povinelli directed by Francis Lawrence Movie Review

Water for Elephants (2011)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants (2011)

I Hope I Can Forget

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) had his life planned out as after finishing his vet studies he planned to sleep with the class hottie. But then disaster strikes when his parents die and he is left with no home and no money. After boarding what he thinks is just a freight train he discovers it is a circus train but due to his studies finds himself working as the circus vet for harsh owner August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz). But Jacob falls for August's attractive wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) as he finds himself training an elephant for her to ride as part of a circus act. But an elephant is a big animal and controlling it as in controlling passions is not easy.

Déjà vu is that sense that you have seen something before and as "Water for Elephants" started I had a sense of Déjà vu. It is because the opening scene features an old man standing in the rain looking at a circus, he is taken in and before you know he is telling two guys how he came to join the circus as a 23 year old during the Great Depression. Now Hal Holbrook is perfectly cast as he has that warmth and spirit which makes him interesting but the mechanism of the old guy or gal telling the story of the past is so over used that it is a bit cheesy.

Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants (2011)

Ah but wait there is more as after the drama of his parents suddenly dead and leaving home with just a suitcase we have the fantasy of Jacob joining the circus. Now this vision of the circus makes Cecil B. DeMille's version in "The Greatest Show in Earth" seem normal as it is so over the top and romanticized. From the beautiful sun rises as the men put up the magnificent Big Top to the camaraderie of everyone as well as the joy of doing something as simple as shovelling sh!t. This is not a realistic vision of the circus life especially one which you must remember is set during the depression era. Don't get me wrong as a romanticized vision of life in the circus it looks good but completely fake.

That sense of being fake extends to every single character which I don't know whether was down to intentional writing or the acting as it didn't work for me. Young girls might like the looks of Robert Pattinson but he doesn't deliver a believable character, he smiles, he frowns, he acts shy or brave but it never feels real. Sadly when it comes to Reese Witherspoon it ends up all about her look rather than her character and Christoph Waltz never comes across as nasty like his character should be. Basically none of the characters manage to convince.

The end result is a movie which whilst meant to be an epic tale of romance ends up so over the top and manufactured that it doesn't work. Everything about it ends up feeling forced which probably won't upset those who watch because they fell in love with Robert Pattinson from his role in "Twilight" but it makes it wrong for those who watch because the story attracted them.

What this all boils down to is that "Water for Elephants" didn't do it for me as the whole movie felt uncomfortably manufactured and too geared up to those who watch because of a crush on Robert Pattinson rather than because the storyline attracted them.