Water For Elephants Review
by Bret Dorman
I am actually a big fan and huge promoter of the 2005 film Constantine. Its visually impressive and the story is intriguing without being too heavy handed and explaining every little detail. Since then, I’ve had my eye on Director Francis Lawrence.
I was pretty underwhelmed by I Am Legend and not really looking forward to Water For Elephants. All I knew about it was it was based on a book some women I knew read and loved. So basically I was expecting a sappy romance involving circus people and something about an elephant.
The Story: Robert Pattinson’s whole life is turned upside down so he decides to just pack up and leave town. He hops on a train that happens to have a circus on it and Christoph Waltz gives him a job. Then he start’s flirting with Waltz’s wife, Reese Witherspoon. Also, there is an elephant.
Even though I wasn’t going in expecting to like this movie (in fact, I was going in expecting to hate it), one of the most disappointing aspects is that Director Francis Lawrence only gets to show off his visual flair in spurts. Every once in a while there will be a shot (some great wide shots of the circus) or scene (some of the ‘anger’ scenes) that are striking and engaging, but then we seem to go back to standard filmmaking for a majority of the movie.
Pattinson spends most of the movie moping around. Unfortunately when he walks though the circus we see more of Pattinson looking around with a big dumb grin on his face then we do of the actual circus. We get all this backstoy in the movie to establish 1) that he is a well off man to begin with 2) he was going to school to be a vet and 3) he can speak Russian or Polish. But he also gives a voice over at the same time telling us all this stuff. We could have just lost the first 15 minutes of his story and started with him on the tracks. All that stuff could be shown visually or through one or two additional lines of dialogue here and there.
Witherspoon is an attractive lady and I can understand why Pattinson would want to get to know her more or even in the context of the movie fall in love at first sight, but then once he starts talking to her there is nothing really there.She spends most of the movie rejecting boyish advances from him only to decide near the end that this love triangle thing might ‘work’ (and make for a more interesting movie!) A little too late to save the ‘relationship drama’ part of this movie.
Waltz gets the best role in the movie. As head ring leader/manager of the circus, he is in charge of everything from finances to final show. And as that pressure builds, Waltz shows his dark side more and more. The scariest part of this character is that he is a showman and a salesman. He’ll invite you in and treat you great as long as you are doing things his way. But all that is just an act. The proof that he enjoys being evil comes near the end when he literally takes command of everything: the screen, the energy, and the characters.
As with the beginning 15 minutes, the ending drags out and ends on a super silly supposedly crowd pleasing moment that I would have cheered for except we have an awesome moment (good guy threatening bad guy) where Pattinson could have mirrored an earlier scene where he ‘helped a horse’ with a leg pain. Instead we just get a completely pointless good guy wimping out of what should (and needs) to be done.
The final pointless thing is the ‘Titanic‘ flash back formula that bookends this movie. It adds nothing except ending the movie on perhaps one of the most ridiculously over the top predictably sappiest lines ever.
In conclusion I was expecting to absolutely hate Water For Elephants but in the end it wasn’t so bad and even had some great moments. Yet its downfall is that sometimes its too average or builds up potential only to let it go to waste.
Final Grade: D+