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Water For Elephants - Review

Water For Elephants

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

ROBERT Pattinson continues to lay the foundations for a leading man life beyond Twilight with Water For Elephants, a flawed but enjoyable adaptation of the popular best-seller by Sara Gruen.

He plays homeless veterinary student Jacob who joins a struggling circus during the Great Depression and promptly falls in love with its star attraction, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), while caring for its newly acquired elephant.

His feelings, though, threaten to incur the wrath of Marlena’s husband, the tyrannical circus owner August (Christoph Waltz), whose vicious streak extends to harming his animals and throwing workmen from a moving train if he can no longer afford to pay them.

Francis (I Am Legend) Lawrence’s film, adapted for the screen by Richard (PS I Love You) LaGravenese, is notable for its old fashioned movie-making values.

It unfolds at a leisurely pace and self-consciously harks back to a bygone era when the circus was truly a magical medium for entertainment and blockbusters came in the form of The Greatest Show on Earth and Trapeze.

As such, it may lack the pace and quick-fire thrills of modern films, while affording a welcome opportunity to let its trio of main stars display their acting talents.

Pattinson is fine in a lighter role than his brooding Edward normally allows, displaying classic movie heart-throb looks and a wide-eyed innocence befitting his role. Witherspoon looks glamorous and handles some of the more difficult material well. But it’s Waltz who once again steals the show, adding yet another deplorable (yet complex) movie fiend to his Inglourious Basterds scene-stealer.

His ruthless circus owner August is a mesmerising presence throughout and Lawrence’s film arguably suffers whenever he is not around.

But in its favour, the film does capture the Great Depression mood in suitably convincing fashion and looks good throughout, by virtue of its talented ensemble of colourful entertainers.

Of the flaws, the central romance often feels forced and struggles to convince while exposing some of the shortcomings in Pattinson’s acting ability, while the disaster in waiting that’s set up during the film’s opening moments ultimately underwhelms and feels as though it may have been softened in a bid to attract younger audiences.

In the main, however, Water For Elephants is an endearing experience that succeeds in spite of its flaws, and which comes complete with the age-old framing device of an elderly man (in this case the excellent Hal Holbrook) serving as a narrator to the events we see unfold. It really does wear its heart on its sleeve.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 120mins
UK Release Date: May 4, 2011