Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
Find out how here
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

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

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Honeymoon
3 Star Empire Rating
Last Impresario, The
3 Star Empire Rating
I Origins
4 Star Empire Rating
Soul Boys Of The Western World
4 Star Empire Rating
What We Did On Our Holiday
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Two Days, One Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Some Like It Hot
5 Star Empire Rating
A Hard Day's Night
5 Star Empire Rating
Boyhood
5 Star Empire Rating

Water For Elephants
Skinny lattes for weasels...


submit to reddit


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
Browse more images »
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


Related Reviews
Sounds
Water For Elephants
 

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

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


SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: The Streaming Services Will Be Major Studios
(Or how Hollywood will have to start worrying about Netflix)

The Empire Podcast #129: Liam Neeson Interview
Plus Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger and Jessica Brown Findlay drop by to talk The Riot Club

The Future Of Film: We'll Be Watching Films In Virtual Reality
Immerse cinema aims to become the must-have experience for the filmgoers of the future

The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)