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Water for Elephants

7/10
Romance . Drama
 

In this captivating Depression-era melodrama, impetuous veterinary student Jacob Jankowski joins a celebrated circus as an animal caretaker but faces a wrenching dilemma when he's transfixed by angelic married performer Marlena.

 
Actors: Christoph Waltz , Reese Witherspoon , Robert Pattinson , Jim Norton , William Morse , Sam Anderson , Paul Schneider , Richard Brake , Hal Holbrook , Tatum Etheridge
Directors: Francis Lawrence
Country: USA
Release: 2011-04-22
More Info:
  • Peter Debruge

    The filmmakers clearly value their public, crafting a splendid period swooner that delivers classic romance and an indelible insider's view of 1930s circus life.

    Variety Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    Like "The Notebook," but with an elephant, the unexpectedly good film version of Water for Elephants elevates pure corn to a completely satisfying realm of romantic melodrama.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Stephanie Zacharek

    One of those big, extravagant-looking romances that you might automatically deem "conventional" - except for the fact that almost nobody makes big, extravagant-looking romances anymore.

    Movieline Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    The film has a pleasing retro-ness that often mitigates the dullness.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Mick LaSalle

    In Water for Elephants, Waltz plays a circus owner and ringleader during the Great Depression, and when he's onscreen, every eye is on him, no matter who is talking.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • Roger Ebert

    In an age of prefabricated special effects and obviously phony spectacle, it's sort of old-fashioned (and a pleasure) to see a movie made of real people and plausible sets.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Carrie Rickey

    Steamy and sexy with a smack of sadism, the movie is a throwback to old-school Hollywood action/romance.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Connie Ogle

    "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson gets a chance to shed his sparkly vampire persona and play a romantic lead with a pulse. The change suits him.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Steve Persall

    Reese Witherspoon can do a lot of things as an actor but playing a damaged-goods Depression era dame isn't one of them.

    Tampa Bay Times Full Review
  • Dana Stevens

    Yes, this is the kind of movie you could imagine seeing with your grandmother at a suburban mall, but does everything have to be edgy and dark and genre-reinventing?

    Slate Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    If the circus is a hierarchical pyramid, August is at the very top. It's a part tailor-made for the accomplished Waltz, an Oscar winner for "Inglourious Basterds," and he eats it alive.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • James Berardinelli

    Sadly, passion and romance are two ingredients missing from this melodrama, which does an excellent job of re-creating the Depression-era circus business.

    ReelViews Full Review
  • Rick Groen

    When the tent folds and the dust settles, the question is not whether the movie is good – sorry, not a chance – but whether it's garish enough, sappy enough, Hollywood enough to rise to the level of being likeably bad. Is it, in short, a guilty pleasure?

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Michael O'Sullivan

    Big, slick and showy. It is also undeniably effective entertainment.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Claudia Puig

    Mildly entertaining, though the best performances come not from the stars, but the supporting players.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    It's all in the telling. Gruen provided grit and pungent detail. The movie settles for gloss.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Angie Errigo

    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.

    Empire Full Review
  • Elizabeth Weitzman

    The primary drawback is the lack of chemistry between the leads, Reese Witherspoon and "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Lisa Schwarzbaum

    Something is wrong under this big tent. Actually made to resemble a good old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing movie, this cinematic Water for Elephants droops and lumbers like Rosie the elephant herself.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Andrea Gronvall

    Features a credible and sympathetic performance from Robert Pattinson as an orphaned veterinary student who joins a traveling circus. Yet the film otherwise suffers from a lack of showmanship.

    Chicago Reader Full Review
  • Karina Longworth

    Beautifully designed, sufficiently choreographed, insipid but watchable, Elephants stresses that showbiz is about the maintenance of an illusion by any means necessary.

    L.A. Weekly Full Review
  • Joe Williams

    The most rewarding way to watch Water for Elephants is to focus on the sideshow of costumes and craftsmanship, because the romance in the center ring smells like trained animals going through the motions.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Mary Elizabeth Williams

    You know how they say to find one thing and do one thing well? Well, Pattinson's thing is glowering. It doesn't help matters that the movie itself is so painfully mediocre.

    Salon.com Full Review
  • Wesley Morris

    The camera, costumes, and art direction do everything right. Too much so. The movie strips away both the grand weirdness of the circus and the dire desolation of the Depression. Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange are exchanged for Vanity Fair.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Tasha Robinson

    It's a tastefully managed, passionless melodrama, full of brooding looks and reasonably sweet moments, but typified by a scantly characterized central couple who bring no sense of engagement to their relationship.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    Will please fans of Sara Gruen's best seller, but it lacks the vital spark that would have made the drama truly compelling on the screen.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    Whatever romance and charm Gruen summoned forth from these rough and tumble show people living by their own laws in a traveling, self-contained world of poverty and cruelty, director Francis Lawrence has hacked and ground them off.

    Orlando Sentinel Full Review
  • Pam Grady

    Waltz is the highlight of this glossy but plodding drama, a live wire in a movie that sorely needs a jolt.

    Boxoffice Magazine Full Review
  • Ben Kenigsberg

    Without larger-than-life drama or a steady stream of historical detail, it's merely a gargantuan production that's been lavished on a story hardly worth trumpeting.

    Time Out New York Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    Add romantic chemistry to the list of things that fall flat in the film, alongside dialogue and acting.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Lou Lumenick

    Less fun than any circus movie I've ever seen - and I've seen lots. Maybe they should send in the clowns.

    New York Post Full Review
  • Kimberley Jones

    No one would mistake the Benzini Bros. Circus for the greatest show on earth – the Depression-era traveling troupe is a junker compared to the gold-standard Ringling Bros. – but still, a film has to try pretty hard to render lions and tigers and trapeze artists so uniformly underwhelming.

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Stephen Holden

    Short-circuits the novel's quirky charms and period atmosphere by its squeamish attitude toward gritty circus life and smothers the drama under James Newton Howard's insufferable wall-to-wall musical soup.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Richard Corliss

    The proceedings get so slow and saccharine that viewers will relishes the film's moments of redeeming idiocy. In one of them, Marlena whispers to Jacob, "Bring Rosie to my tent and don't tell anyone" - as if the roustabouts wouldn't notice a 12-ft.-tall, 10,000-lb. creature striding down the midway.

    Time Full Review
  • Joe Morgenstern

    How do I count the ways this movie goes wrong?

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
Add Soundtrack
  • 16. Stomp Time Blues Performer: Jasper Taylor and his State Street Boys Featuring Johnny Dodos Stream Music Online

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  • clown

  • elephant trainer

  • veterinary

  • circus

  • train

  • elephant

  • circus vargas

  • fear

  • ringmaster

  • maniac villain

  • maniac

  • younger version of character

  • abusive husband

  • no title at beginning

  • determination

  • clown makeup

  • show tent

  • domestic violence

  • horseback riding

  • 1930s

  • falling in love

  • traveling circus

  • love on the run

  • bad temper

  • foreign language

  • jealous rage

  • narration

  • three word title

  • hand on butt

  • orphan

  • retirement home

  • animal abuse

  • brutality

  • circus tent

  • circus performer

  • circus horse

  • lion

  • dog

  • dwarf

  • dancing

  • based on novel

  • death of father

  • death of mother

  • animal in title

  • love triangle

  • trapeze

  • big top

  • leaving home

  • historical fiction

  • husband wife relationship

  • gun

  • older woman younger man relationship

  • parade

  • university student

  • old age

  • death of parents

  • veterinarian

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