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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Robert Pattinson
Reese Witherspoon
Christoph Waltz
James Frain
Paul Schneider
Hal Holbrook.
Directors
Screenwriters
Richard LaGravenese.
Running Time
120 minutes

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Water For Elephants
Skinny lattes for weasels...


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Plot
During the Great Depression homeless veterinary student Jacob (Pattinson) joins a struggling circus and falls in love with its star attraction, animal trainer Marlena (Witherspoon). When Marlena’s husband, tyrannical circus owner August (Waltz), acquires an unhappy elephant, Jacob and Marlena bond over her care, inflaming the unstable August’s vicious streak...


Review
Water For Elephants
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Adapted (by Richard LaGravenese) from a bestseller by Sara Gruen, this romantic period drama is exactly the sort of thing — an old person wistfully begins telling the story of a long-ago adventure, cueing richer colour and a 90-minute flashback — that gets made for television and airs in a weekday matinée slot. The difference is that made-for-TV jobbies invariably star people from cancelled TV series, whereas this Big Top turn has a big-screen budget and a cast led by Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson and Oscar-winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz.

Eighty-six year-old Hal Holbrook gamely kicks it off as Old Jacob Jankowski, who wanders geriatrically around a modern circus and is taken in by the young owner. When he learns Jacob is an old circus hand who survived a famous disaster of the 1930s, he settles in to hear the tale of the Benzini Bros’ travelling show. It’s one of tragedy, deceit, illusion, abuse, murder and, oh yes, secret love. Nastiness and brutality vie with attempts to evoke the magic of circus, but these have a desperate and unconvincing mood. While young boys of a bygone age may well have dreamed of orgies with Hootchie-Cootchie dancers and drunken dwarves, such outbursts of colourful fun are curiously joyless, and the romance feels equally forced. Thank heavens the climactic catastrophe is appropriately dreadful.

Witherspoon, it is said, loved the book. One suspects it was the costumes she loved best here, the pink sequins, marabou feathers and bias-cut frocks. For a dying circus whose unpaid roustabouts and moth-eaten animals are starving, she’s almost too glamorous, holding court in a handsomely appointed railway carriage boudoir. Pattinson is, in his quiet way, the sympathetic central character since his ardent, feeling young Jacob is the one commencing a big life journey. But Waltz’s terrifyingly unpredictable August is horribly fascinating, all charming and charismatic one moment and savagely sadistic the next.


Verdict
Familiar but enjoyable. Not being funny, the elephant (Rosie, played by nine-foot enchantress Tai) is the real star as the most moving and only joyful presence in sight.


Reviewed by Angie Errigo


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Water For Elephants
Empire Star Rating

Enjoyable

Water For Elephants is a film of taste and beauty, but it has to be said that Pattinson and Witherspoon suffer from a great lack of chemistry. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 20:29, 30 May 2011 | Report This Post


one to miss (by a country mile)

Wouldn’t go to see this film if you paid me £1 million. Poor old Rosie, aka Tai, is anything but 'joyful'. The ADI footage of ‘elephant training techniques’ shows me all I need to see. Horrific - if unsurprising. That’s how you train big wild animals – don’t believe for a second anyone that tells you otherwise. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by QT1234567 at 22:51, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post


one to miss (by a country mile)

Wouldn’t go to see this film if you paid me £1 million. Poor old Rosie, aka Tai, is anything but 'joyful'. The ADI footage of ‘elephant training techniques’ shows me all I need to see. Horrific - if unsurprising. That’s how you train big wild animals – don’t believe for a second anyone that tells you otherwise. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by QT1234567 at 22:51, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post


Old fashioned and trite

I think 3 stars is about right for this, if not a little generous. In a summer blockbuster season in which there are superheroes, 3D and cowboys fighting aliens, Water for Elephants (dreadful title) feels particularly old fashioned and almost takes pride in this.  The filmmakers clearly believe that this is a sweeping romantic epic, aiming for The English Patient crossed with The Greatest Show on Earth but the reality is that this film never comes close to either one of thos... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Groovy Mule at 13:50, 10 May 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Very enjoyable

The title is one of the worse ever, but the trailer did intrigue me, it seemed quite simler to classic Tim Burton. Also Mark Kermodes review made it sound very promising. With a bit of luck this might see Weatherspoon get her career back on track, because she is far too talented to be wasting her time in the sort of trash she has been since winning the Oscar. Anyway another one I will give a go. ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 14:01, 09 May 2011 | Report This Post


Very enjoyable

I have to disagree with the mediocire 3 star review and give this a 4. Having not read the book this review is immune from that comparison but I believe this film gives a very good portrayal of 1930s Depression era America and an educated young man's attempt to fit in to a harsh underclass world of travelling performers. What unites the two wolrds is of course the animals, although at times this film threatens to become more of a aww what a shame about the way animals were treated in those days ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmsunlimited at 12:54, 08 May 2011 | Report This Post


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