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Water for Elephants movie review

by Miv Evans. Published Fri 22 Apr 2011 10:26

There's a little action at the beginning of this film, total chaos at the end, and the rest is just a few animal tricks, a load of idle gossip and a sociopath circus owner attacking his bi-lingual elephant when ticket sales are down.

Jacob (Robert Pattinson) is still a student when his parents die in a car accident and he is left destitute and homeless.

He abandons his studies and makes his way to the nearest city to find work. He jumps aboard a passing train and discovers that the coaches are filled with circus performers en route to a show in the next town. He meets the owner August (Christoph Waltz) and his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) who give him a job and his life at the Big Top begins.

The casting in this appears to be a little awry. Pattison is 24, Witherspoon 35 and Waltz 54. Although this kind of age hopping happens in real life, in films differentials need to be observed in some way, and when they're not, we are left with a feeling that something is not quite right.

This 'not quite right' mood is ever present in the many scenes with the three and, with zero chemistry and only facts to drive their exchanges, the ménage a trois falls into cliché land and each time someone speaks they tell us only what we already know.

August, obviously, has tyrant issues. One minute he's relaxed and charming, the next he's beating the hell out of an animal or getting workers thrown to their death to avoid paying their wages. Marlena is only too aware of her husband's monstrous behavior and her decision to stay with him, for whatever reason, makes her difficult to like.

There is also a scene, just after August has abused one of the animals, when Jacob helps him solve a problem, which makes our hero seem to accept the cruelty and that he himself had a hand in the devil's work.

So the only character left to like in this film is Rosie, the elephant, who is quite adorable and also extremely smart. She also only takes her water laced with whisky, which isn't normal elephant behavior but she was probably bored to death by the lack of action on set and needed a drop of the hard stuff to get her through. She's not alone.

USA
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22 April 2011

UK
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4 May 2011



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