Water for Elephants hits theaters this weekend with a whimper… Though the film stars the almost always successful box office champ Reese Witherspoon, the most powerful heartthrob of the moment Robert Pattinson, and one the most lovable baddies of the last decade Christoph Waltz, the film falls short because it never really focuses on it’s true star, Rosie the Elephant — the one we all came to see.

The Players:

  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Writers: Richard LaGravenese (screenplay) and Sara Gruen (novel)
  • Actors: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Jim Norton, Hal Holbrook
  • Original Music by: James Newton Howard
  • Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto


After a young veterinary student loses his parents in a car accident, he abandons his life and joins a traveling circus as their vet. At first everything appears to be a dream come true, until the realities of a working for a ruthless employer during the depression. Unfortunately the more he wants to get out, the more things he has pulling them in, including the bosses wife. Will he be able to win the girl and make his dreams come true before it’s too late?

The Good:

  • The Visuals: The lighting, cinematography, set design and costume design are all completely over the top and wonderfully done in this film. They all managed to embody the idea of a grandiose circus performance, while at the same time maintaining the rough edges of life on a train as a circus employee. There are numerous shots in this film that you could easily turn into artwork on your walls. They did such a great job with the train I wish they would have spent more time on it to really help us get that claustrophobic vibe that the people in the film kept talking about. But if this film has anything going for it, it’s the look.
  • The Ending: Though the build up is minimal and they don’t give the star enough time on screen, Rosie the Elephant’s final moment makes this film almost worth seeing! She will fill your heart with joy and is definitely the highlight of the film. If only they would have made the film more about her story, we would have been set because she’s the true heart of it and the one we’re really siding with.

The Bad:

So many things…

  • The Script: It was filled with lines like “You’re beautiful, you deserve a beautiful life.” Because if you’re not beautiful, you deserve a crappy life filled with no presents and no love. WHAT?! Put that aside and you have a somewhat sweet story that never really gets dark enough unless it’s dealing with animal abuse in which is goes too far. The characters have far more depth than they’re allowed to show on screen and it feels like the best parts were cut out to make this a PG-13 instead of being more honest and representing the true dark sides of all these characters in an R-rated film.
  • Animal Abuse: While they didn’t go in depth with some of the characters, they made of point of having extremely drawn out animal abuse scenes which felt unnecessary. If you’re going to “go there” it needs to pay off, and despite the ending, the abuse never felt fully justified. Abusing an animal just to make the ending more powerful is not a good enough reason, it needs to mean something or tell a story.
  • Length: This is NOT the epic it wants to be. If you’re going to make people sit down and give you their attention for 122 minutes, you better be more than just a romantic drama, you better be something life changing, something that teaches people something they didn’t know, or change cinema as we know it! This film has NONE of that.
  • Pacing: They spend so much time setting up for the final act and yet once we are there they race through it and you hardly know what’s going on. Suddenly you’re left with a happy ending that doesn’t even highlight the star of the film (Rosie the elephant) but rather an inconvenient love story that really is the co-star to the real heart of the film, the circus!
  • Facts: For a person who got on a train with absolutely nothing, Pattinson’s character sure acquires a lot of stuff including as amazingly expensive leather jacket — where did it all come from? The world may never know! As a person who has had horses for 20 years, there are certain things that just don’t add up. First of all “he’s going to founder” — no the horse has already foundered and is foundering as they speak — nerdy I know, but you have to get your facts right. Also, you’d never shoot a horse in a tiny space because how the hell would you get it out?


The couples love story would have played much stronger if they would have let the animal’s story be the real star of the show. The romance between the two leads felt so forced, especially when there were far more interesting stories going on around them. Despite the beautiful craftsmanship put into this film, it’s not worth your time or money.

Rating: 3/10

Water for Elephants is in theaters April 22nd.

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