Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson) is young, blue-eyed and good to animals. He’s studying to become a veterinarian, but by a twist of fate he ends up with a traveling circus. Here, the economic hardships of the 1930s combine with the harsh reality of circus life when he’s introduced to the ruthless ringmaster, August (Waltz) who treats his employees even worse than his animals. If you misbehave, he’ll throw you off the moving train. But he is impressed by Jacob’s skills and befriends him – until Jacob falls in love with his boss’ beautiful wife and star attraction of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), and August’s unpredictable temper becomes dangerous.
Sara Gruen’s 2006 bestseller is a classic adventure, a battle of good vs. evil (the roles are clearly determined by how nice any character is to animals). Wrapped up in Hollywoodness, the story drowns in saturated colors and easy solutions. Pattinson of Twilight-fame can’t seem to shake off the pouty mouth and puppy eyes of his vampiric alter ego, and he becomes increasingly annoying as the protagonist who has to save Marlena from evil. Even the usually solid Hal Holbrook, who plays Jacob as an old man, can’t keep from stepping into some cliché traps.
There are several good moments admittedly, but not enough to save this from being a circus of banalities.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS | Directed by Francis Lawrence (USA 2011) with Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz. Opens April 28