'Water for Elephants': What's the verdict?
April 23rd, 2011
12:38 PM ET

'Water for Elephants': What's the verdict?

No wonder Robert Pattinson kept talking about the elephant: Critics agree that the pachyderm is about the best thing going in this weekend’s new release, “Water for Elephants.”

Based on the best-selling book by Sara Gruen, it tells the Depression-era story of Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), a Cornell student who drops out of veterinarian school and finds himself joining league with a traveling circus.

That circus contains Rosie, the beloved elephant who can follow Polish commands and is also cruelly mistreated by the circus owner and ringmaster August (Christoph Waltz), who isn’t any kinder to his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) – the very woman that Jacob finds himself falling for (of course).

As this film is also a rare offering of Pattinson outside of the “Twilight” storyline, it’s understandable that most critics were simply thrilled to see him ditch the vampire scowl/look of pain and actually have some color in his cheeks.

His acting? That was more hit or miss.

“As Jacob Jankowski, a part that requires him mainly to be shy and watchful, RPattz radiates a slow magnetism that locks the viewer's eyes on him,” Time writes, noting that “for a few moments in ‘Water for Elephants,’” Pattinson does seem capable of a career outside of his familiar blood-sucking character.

That is, “until the vapors pass, we return to 2011 and realize that, however strong Pattinson's anachronistic attractiveness, they don't make movies like 'Ball of Fire' or 'A Place in the Sun' any more.”

The Los Angeles Times agreed that the 24-year-old actor is “the weak link in this melodramatic chain…Though his removed affect made him ideal as one of the undead, that quality makes him seem sullen, petulant, even pouty here.”

But Pattinson’s co-star, the recently married Witherspoon, wasn’t let off the hook, either.

Pattinson “doesn’t quite connect with Witherspoon, though that may not be wholly his fault,” says Movieline. “She can be a wonderful actress, but when it comes to sharing the screen with her, I suspect she’s a tough nut to crack… Witherspoon’s Marlena doesn’t melt easily, and when she does give in to romance, you can almost see her grudging reluctance in the set of her sharp little jaw.”

Christoph Waltz, meanwhile, delivers a solid performance, reminiscent of his acclaimed turn in “Inglourious Basterds,” while Roger Ebert, who gave the film three stars, notes that Rosie the elephant’s “timing is impeccable.”

In the end, says Entertainment Weekly, the elements were there but they just didn’t add up.

"Actually made to resemble a good old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing movie, this cinematic ‘Water for Elephants’ droops and lumbers like Rosie the elephant herself,” says EW. “The heart of the story is there…[but] what’s missing is the soul. From scene to scene, and plot point to plot point, nothing connects. Pattinson, Witherspoon, and Waltz perform in separate rings of their three-ring circus.”

Filed under: movies

soundoff (37 Responses)
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    I used to be recommended this website via my cousin. I am not certain whether this put up is written by him as no one else recognise such detailed about my problem. You are wonderful! Thank you!

    April 23, 2012 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Animal Lover

    Mmmmm...big hairy elephant balls floppin in my face...

    April 25, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  3. @N

    my fave part is wen rob taks a knife & starts stabbin an elephant ballon thinkin its a real elephant but the elephant cz him.so the elephant puts his huge wringly butt on rob & poos & pees on him.rob starts screamin but the elphants meat stick lands in his mouth.

    April 25, 2011 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Peace

    Sounds like a chick flick. Even if the movie sucks, the popcorns always good! Lots of diff reviews on this. I'll watch it on demand when it comes out.

    April 25, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jessica @ work

    I saw this Saturday.... It was okay until their big love scene. In a theater full of people you could hear a pin drop. No music, no other sound... totally took me out of the movie and put me right back in my seat at the theater. I don't blame the apparent lack of chemistry on the actors, I blame it on the filmmakers.

    April 25, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Get Back to Work Jessica

      Let me get this straight: when two people don't have chemistry between them, it's other peoples' fault? Other peoples' problem, maybe, but not their fault. Blame them for casting these two, but not for their lack of ability to pretend that they are hot for each other.

      April 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jessica, still @ work

      Did you see the movie? Or just putting in your 2 cents worth anyway?

      April 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mimi jones

    ummm....never saw this damn movie but by looking at the previews this movie kinda looks like another sob story. it always is wen robert watever his name is, plays in a movie...but i guess u can say he is a kick ass actress.

    April 25, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. Paul

    I agree with some of the other blogs that if I listened to the critics we would never see a movie. My wife and I loved it ! Having never seen Pattison in the Eclipse saga, we were very impressed with him in this movie. Reese of course lit up the screen as she always does. Wonderful !!

    April 25, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. Eat dooodooo and play with wienies while being entertained by this masterpiecw


    April 25, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. Gary Lovendusky

    I'll have to agree with Mary....enjoyed the book and the movie. I recommend everyone do both!

    April 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mary

    loved the book loved the movie ........never listen to other people reviews Only I can judge what will interest me

    April 24, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The Real @N


    April 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. to play with all of the weiners.


    April 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. kathy

    Don't believe what the critics say! This was a wonderful movie. Three of us watched it and all agreed it was GREAT

    April 24, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • J-Dub

      Yeah, because all of these people who make a living reviewing movies (and all pretty much think the same thing) couldn't possibly be right... right?

      April 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NYCMovieFan

    The book was terrible, poorly written and lumbering, it was boring as anything.Really insulting to the intelligence. I gave it up and threw it away around chapter 4. No good movie could come from such a bad and boring book, so the failure of this one is no big surprise. There is a new Terence Malick movie coming this summer – intelligent minds are waiting for that one. In the meantime, we'll save our $13 movie money in the piggy bank.

    April 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • to Arrogant Movie Fan

      Intelligent minded adults don't save money in piggy banks - children do.

      April 25, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lynda

    The book was great! The movie missed a lot of the connection between Jacob and Marlena. But...I thought the movie was good...the pace was good..the acting..very good. CWaltz was terrific and Oscar worthy again, Reese was ok..I thought a little stiff and emotionless..and RPatz was very good. Let's face it everyone...he is gorgeous..but he was heartfelt in his portrayal of Jacob. I give the screenwriter a D- for the adaptation. The just didn't capture all the emotions of the book....but most movies never do. I look forward to Pattinsons films in the future...he has star power written all over him..and intelligence comes thru clearly! Edward who???

    April 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  16. for some odd reason

    i tend to like the movies critics bash
    wasn't planning on seeing it, but now that it's bashed. . . .

    April 24, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      So, that must mean you avoid all the movies that the critics hate? Makes perfect sense to... someone, I'm sure. In the end, I guess the critics's opinions are very important to you.

      April 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  17. illinois

    Like everything else the movie critics bash it was awesome! My daughter (15 yrs) and I saw it. LOVED it. If we skipped every movie they hated we would never see one,

    April 24, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  18. jgood

    Just saw the movie yesterday with family and friends (ages in 50's and 60's)....we all really enjoyed it. We found it interesting, moving, and having value as it brought to mind our experiences of going to a tent circus....and thankful there are laws now to protect the animals. We gave it a 3 out of 4 stars!

    April 24, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  19. floor

    The movie review sure doesnt sound too wonderful.

    April 24, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • P T Barnum

      I liked it when it showed the footage of elephants walking around taking a doo doo all over.

      April 25, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  20. foodiefilmie

    The book? YES. The film? NO.

    April 24, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  21. Madison

    Don't listen to the naysayers. We give it four and a half stars out of five. We took our whole family yesterday (age range 15-23 plus parents) to 'Water for Elephants' and we all thought it was disturbing in parts (animal cruelty) yet awesome and entertaining at the same time. The acting was great and it really gave you a feel for what the circus life was like during that era. HIghly recommend the movie!!

    April 24, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  22. @N

    sounds good but dont lik rob. he keeps thinkin he is so special.

    April 24, 2011 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
    • LMG

      You have no idea what you are talking about. Every actor and reporter always comments about him being a very kind and humble person. And no I am not a Twilight/Rob fanatic! But, I have seen this young man on talk shows and interviews..he does not come off that way at all...stop the hating.

      April 24, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • kc

      totally agree with LMG...there's a lot more to this guy than the critics believe, and I'm sure he'll prove it as his movie roles grow.

      April 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • jgc

      Sorry but the guy can't act.......

      April 25, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  23. Sunshine Girl *

    The movie doesnt sound very interesting. Ill have to read the book 1st and then determine if the movie would be worth watching. Usually the book is better than the movie anyway. Expand your minds!

    April 24, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Cloudly Man

      You're going to sit down for dozens and dozens of hours of reading just to see whether or not a two-hour movie is worth watching?

      April 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Goldilocks

      The book is simply wonderful. I stumbled upon it years ago and could not put it down. When I heard a movie was coming, I was just relieved to have actually enjoyed the book first and not have to wonder which is/would be better. To some extent, based on having read the book and the author's details, a movie seems awful in the first place. I had much more fun imagining each scene than Hollywood could every attempt to replicate for an audience.

      April 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Ca

    What is the verdict?
    In a word...gay.

    April 24, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |

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