Water for Elephants was the right movie to see on a cold, dark, dreary, stormy Saturday. Normally, this type of movie isn’t my cup of tea. I’m not a fan of Robert Pattinson but always enjoyed Reese Witherspoon, add Inglorious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz to the mix and it makes for an interesting little love triangle. Walking into the theater, the only thing I knew about this movie was that it is based on a popular book by Sara Gruen. The trailer doesn’t give much away either. The movie turns out to be a pale imitation of Big Fish, but somehow it still ended up working for me.
As with Big Fish the story starts off with an old man, in this case Jacob Jankowski who ran away from his Nursing home with the hopes of finding adventure in the local Circus. He wasn’t always old and tells the story of how he met the love of his life after running away to join the circus. The movie is about finding love in unlikely places. Some of Director, Francis Lawrence (primarily known for his Music Videos) has a couple of great montage sequences that are love letters to the Circus. While this movie works for me, it’s not a remarkable or memorable film; it tries to be, it desperately wants to be. But there’s something lacking. We don’t find out much about anyone other than the three principles and their love triangle. The movie doesn’t go deep enough into anything and it all felt like I was just watching the surface of a much deeper and richer story – I haven’t read the book.
There isn’t any passion on the screen, just a lot of folks going through the motions. The problem is, the entire movie centers around Pattinson’s Jacob Jankowski character. To paraphrase the immortal words of Hermione Granger, Pattison has the emotional range of a Teaspoon. He is fine in this part, but he never takes it and owns it. Never once did I not think I was watching a “pre-twilight” Edward Cullen. He plays the role of Jacob almost exactly the same, only he smiles a little bit more in this movie.
Waltz isn’t nearly as menacing here, as he is in Basterds, but he does bring off that feeling that you never know what August is going to do next. I never bought the charming side of his character, primarily because the movie never shows August treating anyone (other than Jacob) even remotely decently. Witherspoon and Pattinson, never quite work together on camera. She seemed way too old for him. Like a cougar ready to attack.
While it seems like I didn’t like Water for Elephants, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. While individual elements didn’t work, it all somehow comes together pretty well.
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Originally posted 04/24/2011