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Water for Elephants


Jeff Nelson

Water for Elephants is simply alright, nothing special.

Water for Elephants
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The circus setting has been a famous theme since essentially the beginning of the existence of filmmaking. However, it's interpreted very differently from one movie to the next. The tones explored from each movie heavily range from gloomy and sad to adventurous and exciting. Water for Elephants is an adaptation from a novel, but often feels like the filmmaker was trying all too hard and watched too many circus films before creating this drama. In this Depression-era melodrama, veterinary student, Jacob Jankowski, joints a celebrated circus as an animal caretaker. However, he faces a dilemma when he's transfixed by the beautiful and married performer Marlena. A similar bond with an elephant brings together the young pair, but the warmth between them sends Marlena's cruel husband, animal trainer August, into a frightening fury. While the screenplay wasn't bad, it certainly has its issues. The pacing could have been sped up a little bit and some footage could have been taken out to keep the pace a bit more smooth. There are times that the plot simply drags and it leaves the audience just wondering when the next predictable story development will occur. However, the dialogue is decent. There are some lines of tacky Hollywood-esque clichÚs, but they aren't as bad as they could have been. I would have appreciated seeing more development in Marlena to get to know her more as a character. There are times where the movie has a similar story arch in how it unfolds as films such asTitanic. Otherwise, Water for Elephants boasts a decent script.

The film sports a more than capable cast. Reese Witherspoon is an outstanding actress, although she has been placed in too many crappy films. When she's given the correct character and a strong script, she shines bright. However, I didn't feel the magic she conveyed in movies such as Walk the Line. Robert Pattinson is Jacob and while I'm not a fan of his, he's decent here. My primary issue with the two of these actors is that the relationship doesn't feel authentic. The chemistry simply isn't there. While they fit the roles physically, I never felt absolutely convinced of these actors in the roles. Christoph Waltz plays August. He is surely the strongest performance to be seen in Water for Elephants. He's much more convincing than any other actor seen in this film.

Director Francis Lawrence has created a visually appealing piece of cinema. He utilizes the visuals of the circus very well. This is surely the strongest portion of the film. The CGI is incorporated into the movie quite well. Despite the fact that Water for Elephants is a drama, the audio is superb. The dialogue scenes are never difficult to hear and James Newton Howard's score is mixed very well. There's quite a bit of dynamic range displayed in this movie and the bass is strong, deep, and punchy. Those who have a home theater system are sure to be pleased with the technical portion of the disc.

The best way to describe Water for Elephants is to take away almost all of the emotion and passion that could have been placed in the film with decent dialogue and performances that leave much to be desired. My expectations weren't set very high for this film, but I had hoped for something decent. While this isn't a masterpiece, it isn't a piece of garbage. Water for Elephants is simply alright, nothing special.

My Rating = Three Stars

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