EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (director: Francis Lawrence; screenwriters: from the novel by Sara Gruen/Richard LaGravenese; cinematographer: Rodrigo Prieto; editor: Alan Edward Ball; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Robert Pattinson (Jacob Jankowski), Reese Witherspoon (Marlena), James Frain (Rosie's caretaker), Christoph Waltz (August), Hal Holbrook (Old Jacob Jankowski), Paul Schneider (Charlie), Ken Foree (Earl), Tim Guinee (Diamond Joe), Mark Povinelli (Kinko/Walter), Scott MacDonald (Blackie); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Gil Netter/Erwin Stoff/Andrew R. Tennenbaum; 20th Century Fox; 2011)|
|"Mechanically directed by
music-video director Francis Lawrence."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Mechanically directed by former music-video director Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend"/"Constantine") from a plodding screenplay by Richard LaGravenese, that's based on the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen. It makes for an overlong and tedious work of pap, one that squeezed the fantasy life out of the novel and was turned into an awkward film that was trying too hard to squeeze in every minor detail in the book. The best thing I can say about it, is that it's innocuous and just might please those looking to be modestly entertained by something that is not challenging. It's a dullish Depression-era circus romance, with no chemistry shown between the stiff lovers. Another audience it might appeal to is the one of vengeful animal lovers, who can't wait for the animal abuser to get his expected comeuppance. This contrived comeuppance comes from the same animal he abused (but that climactic scene is so halfheartedly directed, that it loses its cathartic power and dramatic effect).
It opens with the elderly
nursing home resident Jacob Jankowski
(Hal Holbrook) disappointed his son didn't remember to
take him to a traveling circus on his anticipated visit, and he
therefore comes alone but arrives after the circus is leaving town.
After befriending the helpful Vargas
Circus owner, Charlie O'Brien (Paul
Schneider), Jacob tells the curious owner about his
experience in 1931 with the Benzini Bros. circus.
In flashback we follow the
young Jacob (Robert
Pattinson), a Cornell veterinary school student, who
becomes an impoverished orphan with his parents' untimely death in a
traffic accident just before he can finish his finals and get his
degree. The disconsolate lad hops a circus train (rather than doing the
rational thing and going back to complete his exam) and inadvertently
the struggling Benzini Bros.' circus as its resident vet when he
convinces the sadistic ringmaster boss August (Christoph Waltz)
that he knows about animals. Jacob
immediately falls for the
pretty platinum-blond bareback horse riding star attraction
Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the wife of the volatile ringmaster, who
rescued Marlena from poverty and made her a circus icon.
To replace Marlena's horse,
put down because of injury and the reason the show can't go on, August
purchases from another circus an
elephant named Rosie. Marlena frets about learning a new act, while
Jacob is upset because August beats Rosie. By this juncture you know
where this pic is going, but it takes such a long time to tell us what
we already figured out that it becomes just as boring as watching paint
Marlena bonds further with
Jacob over their mutual love of animals, and their attraction gets the
attention of her dangerously jealous hubby. Before August can dispose
of Jacob by having his goons throw him off the moving train, like he
does with his other employees he wants to part company with, Jacob gets
help from the other disgruntled roustabouts and performers and that
leads to the release of the caged animals, the demise of August and his
circus, and the chance for Jacob to become a veterinarian and marry Marlena.
Everything about this pic came out perfunctory.
REVIEWED ON 4/23/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ