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Water for Elephants
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Reviews & Ratings for
Water for Elephants More at IMDbPro »

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45 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

One Spectacular Show

Author: Nicole Gius from Dallas, Texas
22 April 2011

Readers, fear not. This is one adaption that lives up to the book.

Water for Elephants is pure beauty. Despite the fact that it takes place during the Depression, it makes you almost wish you lived during the '30s.

One reason is the costumes. They are wonderfully done, as well as the makeup. Another is the eye candy. No, I'm not talking about Robert Pattinson(though he looks as gorgeous as ever). I'm talking about the breathtaking cinematography, courtesy of Rodrigo Prieto.

While the leads(Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz) all turn in GREAT performances, the real star here is Tai the elephant. She plays Rosie, the newest addition to The Benzini Bros. Most Spectacular Show on Earth, who is brought in in hopes of taking The Benzini Bros. circus to a new level(particularly to the level of Ringling Bros.).

As per usual, there are quite a few changes that may or may not irritate the readers. It all depends on the person. One that I felt was an improvement upon the book, however, was the combining of August and Uncle Al. I honestly didn't miss Al one bit.

Water for Elephants is a beautiful, enchanting, mesmerizing must-see.

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29 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Give water to the elephants!

Author: TheRapDude from Norway
19 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The director behind I Am Legend and Constantine has made a traditional romantic drama of the old school, with Twilight idol Robert Pattinson in the lead role, and it's certainly nothing wrong with it. Water for Elephants are the type of film that is rarely made anymore, with a story that is so timeless that it could have been filmed at any time in the last seventies. Based on the award winning novel by Sara Gruen, who signed in the name of truth have not read. It seems that a couple of the characters are merged, and part of the frame story is cut out, but it's insignificant changes that are the film to slide off more efficiently.

This is the story of Jacob Jankowski, a young man in the depression of the future United States that loses everything when her parents die in a car accident. He leaves veterinary studies at Cornell University and go like so many unemployed men in the 1930s on the road. Jacob jumps at the first freight trains chug by, and ends up as stowaways, on one of the cars to the circus Benzini Brothers. Circus Director August recognizes that a veterinary education can be useful in a circus where the animals are dying of hunger and diseases. August is proving to be a charming, capricious sadist who not afraid to kill people who disappoint him. So when Jacob falls in love with Malena, he does things that goes very wrong.

Water for Elephants paints an authentic picture of circus life of thirty centuries, a merciless nomadic existence that operates in its own closed universe. Particularly fascinating are descriptions of the practice called redlighting where employees were fired by being thrown out of the circus train at full speed, with little chance for survival. Thank you and goodbye. It is quite possible that Robert Pattinsons idol status as a burden on his ambitions, is to be taken seriously as an actor, but the role of elections suggests that he is serious, and has good taste when it comes to picking out projects. Robert does his best ever performance in Water for Elephants, which ought to be Easter major film for all romantics. No reason to be embarrassed to let the movement of such a solid, well made Hollywood film like this.

Overall rating: 9/10

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25 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Do not believe the high rating for this show..

Author: Nicole Yanying Loh from Singapore
30 May 2011

It is just that awful. The only reason i watched the whole show was because of the high rating here. There wasn't any chemistry between Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattison. Although it wasn't Reese Witherspoon's fault. Why some of the reviewers think Robert Pattison gave a marvelous performance is really a wonder. He's not acting, he was just being himself. Just search for his interviews on youtube if you don't believe. The storyline is bland (if there was any), other than Christoph Waltz and Jim Norton, i don't feel any of the other characters believable. Film dragged on for too long. How i hope the animals at the end would just kill them all. And like some others said, the elephant was (or still is) definitely tortured to perform tricks like that. Shame on the stars who performed in this film. If you enjoy being tortured by a slow and pointless story, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, there are better films out there. I wish i could take back that 2 hours of my life or at the very least not trusting the high rating from reviewers here. Oh, another thing, what cinematography were people talking about? Everything were closeups. I didn't see a single spectacular view.

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31 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Departing along gently...

Author: Cruiz Dwyer ( from South Africa
15 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) has a bright future ahead of him: with the Great Depression ravaging through America he has the chance at a good job as a veterinarian and a stable life. This all changes when he discovers that his parents have been in a car accident and that he is illegible to own their house. He tries to renew his life's purpose and by chance comes across the circus troupe of the Bezeni Brothers where he meets the cruel owner August (Christoph Waltz) and dazzling Marlene (Reese Witherspoon).

Titanic on a train: you would be forgiven if this was your estimation of the film based on previews and for the most part you would be right. Based on the award-winning novel of the same name, Water for Elephants tells the story of a man who has to redirect his life after it is derailed from some unfortunate events. The story is told in a linear fashion and it is a pity that not more is made of the idea of reality vs. illusion which is a noticeable subject in the odd dialogue interchange. While this concept has more in liking with who a character really is and what information they know but do not let on, the concept is nevertheless never fully developed and ultimately explained by the characters themselves. Nevertheless, other themes present themselves in more subtle and interesting ways such as the images of railroads and water allowing the experience to not be all dictated. In the end, the film feels like a reworking of James Cameron's Titanic with a new setting and a new cast, but it most likely will not have the same cultural impact.

Romance becomes pivotal to the development of characters and the respective actors prove capable. Robert Pattinson will obviously be the centre of talk for the film and he does well for himself here. If you did not feel that Remember Me was a step in the right direction from a Twilight-esque future, then this film will surely give you the impression that Pattinson at least has the potential to mature his acting in a commendable manner. Witherspoon does an adequate job in her portrayal of Marlene and wriggles in workable chemistry between herself and Pattinson, but ultimately she does little to truly shine beyond her male counterparts. But experience is what steals the show with Waltz exemplifying a character who can pull you in with his charisma and idealistic hopes but who can also repulse you with his cruelty. Waltz is indeed the strongest link in the acting department but do not let his performance undermine the rest of the cast, especially the supporting roles who help create a holistically believable set of characters.

All of this is strengthened by some decent costume design and film direction which brings every scene to life gracefully. There is some questionable CGI use for animals towards the end and the environment does not get quite the showing it could but the film feels balanced and admirable in portrayal of one man's journey of self-discovery.

Sex and nudity are, at most, hinted at and language is mild at best. There is some violence mostly in the regard of fist fighting but also the rare off-screen violence towards an animal.

As mentioned earlier, Titanic on a train could very well be an apt explanation of the film. There is thankfully enough substance to allow the story to craft its own image but only just. This coupled with some slight CGI mishap and a narrative that does not always allow one to ponder on certain ideas, are not enough to truly hurt the overall quality. The story is lovely; the acting is strong; and the filming is delicate in what it offers. It may not be the Titanic of the time, but it is hardly a bumpy ride either.

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30 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Water for Elephants is the Most Spectacular Show on Earth

Author: thinkingofrob from Canada
22 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the New York Times best-selling novel penned by Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The movie plunges you into an era where travelling circuses and big tops were all the rage. Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson,) a veterinary student at Cornell, learns rapidly how life can change with the blink of an eye when his parents die in an accident. Alone with nowhere to go and no money Jacob jumps on a train, which turns out to be owned by the Benzini Brothers, a travelling circus. First seen as an intruder by the owner of the circus, August (cleverly played by Christoph Waltz,) his veterinary skills quickly come in handy and help him find his own place in the circus. When Jacob meets August's wife Marlena (played by Reese Witherspoon,) he falls under her charm and soon has to deal with the furious temper of a crazed husband.

Ladies and gentleman prepare to be wooed; this is Robert Pattinson like you've never seen him before. From laughter to extreme frustration, Pattinson displays a wide array of emotions, showing his worth as an actor. Witherspoon and Waltz also show their amazing Oscar winning capabilities in this movie. As a secondary character, Hal Holbrook plays the part of an older Jacob Jankowski marvellously well. In the fashion of great Hollywood love stories, the transition between "old Jacob" and "young Jacob" is cleverly played.

Water for Elephants is beautifully shot. Francis Lawrence manages to bring an entire era to life on the silver screen. You'll go through a roller-coaster of emotions, from laughter to tears. For fans of the book, you will definitely not be disappointed, the screenplay written by Richard LaGravenese, stays true to the book.

Definitely a must see! Water for Elephants is simply the most spectacular show on earth…

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49 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

I can see this being one of the best movies this year.

Author: gossip_dance from Sweden
9 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First of all: Wow

Second: Wow

I saw the movie today at a pre screening and let me just say, this movie simply just took my breathe away. I was already in tears by the first scene! This is an emotional, warm movie and I loved every second of it of course there are some really funny scenes in it too but since I don't wanna post spoilers I will add a few under the cut but one of the best scenes has to do with cats ;). It is so beautiful, they have really captured the era and the feeling of a circus.

This movie seem to be all Robert Pattinson (Jacob), I mean come on!! The footage of Rob is to die for. If i could picture frame every scene he is in i would. He is simply amazingly beautiful in this movie, like we didn't already know that?!

How about Robs acting then. The big question ;) I could see so much change in his acting and so much progress. It made me sort of proud in a weird way. I hope this movie will finally be the one that makes the movie business see him as something more than Edward Cullen. In the beginning of the movie i could see some Edward acting in certain face expressions and further in I could draw parallels with Tyler in Remember Me and sometimes I couldn't tell if he was acting or if he was simply being Rob. In some scenes I could see him charming fans at official events or just being laid back as he always is. Like if he shined know what I mean? I think all of you will see his amazing change, he have learned so much on the way.

He has developed so much!

To make this a fair review I think I would have to mention the rest of the cast.

Hal Holbrook (Old Jacob) is the sweetest little man ever. Totally awesome for the short time we see him on screen. I had a really hard time not crying when he was on. The opening scene is so emotional.

Reese Witherspoon (Marlena) I didn't expect anything besides good acting. She is so very sweet and on film she and Rob has an awesome connection and chemistry. Almost felt as if I could see the playfulness in the movie that they shared during their WFE press junket interviews.

Christoph Waltz (August) have to admit i haven't seen any movie from him before but he plays his part gracefully. Scary man with great ambitions for his circus.

Tai (Rose) the elephant. I LOVED HER!! I loved how adorable the scenes between her and Rob are. You can see the love Rob has for that elephant. Their scenes are the best!!

As for the other cast...they have made a great casting for this movie. Everyone plays their part so good.

Found a lack of depth in the movie like the book has, but i guess it is impossible to add all features from the book in to 2 hours of film. Overall nothing that really is bothering.

About the music.. I must admit that i didn't notice the score at all so i suppose it really worked in the movie. A lot of time typical music in many scenes.

Many have asked me on twitter if i think this movie is Oscars material. To be honest, I would love it to get an Oscar nod cause the scenography and costumes are so beautiful (!!) but, my answer will be no, at least in the bigger categories. It's not that i don't think the movie is extremely good but because i don't think the movie has the depth or the complexity that the Oscar winning movies normally have. But if i am wrong i will be so happy of course.

I wish all would see this movie. I don't think it will disappoint many.


The sex scene is something i have been asked about. Well, it's short and pretty much non existent. As far as anything naked in this movie, you will not find it.

Funniest scenes: When August tells Jacob to feed the cats. I laughed so much when Rob gets scared and falls. Also the scene after Robs party with Barbra and the crew and he wakes up in full clown gear. I am telling you nippelgate Rob all the way hahhahaha!!!

When Rob gets tears in his eyes when Rose is being hit my heart broke. *tears*

We also get to hear Rob speak polish in the movie which is really cool. And for me as a non polish person i think it sounds genuine :D

I will not write the ending even if this is spoilers cause I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't read the book.

The ONLY thing in the movie that didn't have the high quality as the rest of the movie was the scene when the animals are let loose among the circus audience. Looked to much as computer work than the real thing

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Melodrama: Waltz Rages Through The Magic

Author: jonnyhavey from United States
27 April 2011

Critically acclaimed novel "Water for Elephants" written by Sara Gruen was a New York Times #1 Best Seller in 2007 and now has taken a turn towards cinema with the help of Director Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend"). The film's biggest draw comes from Robert Pattinson ("Twilight") after his tween vampire film following success, however, the real star of the show is Academy Award Winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Bastards"). Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line") stars as the film's leading lady hitting her stride late in the film. Hal Holbrook ("All The President's Men") opens up the film with the portrayal of present day Jacob Janowski found in a parking lot outside of the circus who begins telling the story of his early years connecting to one of the biggest circus disasters in history. Pattinson plays the younger Jacob, a veterinary student at Cornell whose his life is turned upside down. He drops out of school deciding to go jump a train. He realizes that he has joined the ranks of the Benzini Brothers Circus changing his life forever. He is thrown into the harsh reality of the Big Top meeting a man named August (Waltz) who reluctantly gives him a job working with the animals. Jacob becomes infatuated with August's wife Marlena (Witherspoon) who is a part of the lead act in the show that develops into a friendship between man, woman and a majestic elephant. However, life is a battle and the story is extremely dramatic leaving everyone's life at risk with August's alcoholic greedy rage on their doorstep.

Cristoph Waltz does what he does best with his most recent interpretation of a complicated ill-willed bad guy that audiences grow to hate, however, the depth of his performances make him memorable. He is able to give life to the cold soul of August making the viewer root for his demise along with his change of heart. Pattinson shows that he is more than just a tween king vampire, however, his full potential is not unleashed. The real star of the show is the majestic elephant herself (Rosie) and the character's journey to protect her hitting the right notes in the second half.

The magic and magnificence of the film is lost within the overly dramatic, lengthy exposition. The melodramatic backdrop of the film is omnipresent leaving little room for comic relief and the growth of the beautiful creatures to coexist. The most disappointing part of the film is Witherspoon's odd character development making her very plain until halfway through the film. At the same time it seems like an eternity once the elephant finally enters the film showing an inkling of hope, while the love triangle becomes childish, cliché and eventually annoying.

Overall, the film has an average script that is aided by the performances of its actors. It is hard to overlook the melodrama as Waltz controls the show, which is actually more about life and relationships than the circus.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The book was better.

Author: newguy85 from United States
6 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a standalone feature the movie may have been successful, but as most movies these days go, the screenplay was adapted from the source material, and inevitably left out some key elements.

The largest of these omissions was combining Uncle Al and August into one character. I didn't understand the reasoning behind it, and a lot of drama is lost. Christoph Waltz is a capable actor, but's it's hard to convincingly play the man who's greed and desperation runs the circus into the ground, and the tortured, schizophrenic man who's rage and cruelty drives his wife and friends away.

Also I think that the entire theme of living during the late depression is largely glamorized and you never really sense how desperate the men are, and thus have a hard time believing the finale.

I was also saddened by what happened to Walter and Camel in the book, but unmoved in the movie... the friendship had no build-up... they disliked one another then they were BFF's.

The last omission was an understandable deviation from the book, but in it was so critical to the theme of the story that I missed it in the movie. I'm talking about the scenes in the nursing home where we see the shell of a man that Jacob became, and we're left feeling almost as helpless and depressed as him until he finally makes it to the circus in the end.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Beautiful Romance

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
15 February 2013

When an old man is found wandering in the parking area of the Circus Vargas, his owner invites him to come to his office to call the Green Haven nursing home to take him back home. The old man tells his name, Jacob Jankowski, and explains that he worked in the Benzini Bros. Circus in 1931. The owner is curious about it since in 1931 there was the most famous disaster in history of circuses in the Benzini Circus and asks Jacob to tell what happened.

In 1931, during the Great Depression, the Polish American Jacob (Robert Pattinson) lives with his beloved parents in a small ranch and studies veterinary in the Cornell University. During his final exams, his parents die in a car accident. Jacob learns that he is homeless and without any money since his parents used their house to get a loan for his studies.

Jacob leaves his town and jumps in a train in movement without destination to seek a job. Soon he finds that this is the Benzini Brothers Circus train and he finds a job cleaning the animals' excrement from the wagons. When the unstable and violent owner of the traveling circus, August (Christoph Waltz), learns that Jacob is a veterinary, he hires him to train his attraction, the elephant Rosie. August and his bodyguard Blackie (Scott MacDonald), throw workers that complain off the train in movement to get rid of them. Meanwhile Jacob meets August's wife and lead attraction Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), he immediately falls in love with her. Jacob gets closer to Marlena and soon he discovers that she is also in love with him, but she fears August.

"Water for Elephants" is a beautiful romance developed in the Great Depression with the story of a youngster that loses his beloved parents and joins a circus by chance. He finds love, but also the illusion of the circus and the violence of an unstable man. The lead cast is composed by the excellent Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon and a surprisingly good Robert Pattinson besides the lovely elephant Rosie. The art direction is also very beautiful in the recreation of 1931 costumes and sets. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Água Para Elefantes" ("Water for Elephants")

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Old Story, Old Fashioned Look, I Did Not Really Like It

Author: 3xHCCH from Quezon City, Philippines
18 May 2011

This was one of the oldest stories in the book -- a new man gets in between the relationship of a husband and a wife. But for "Water for Elephants," this story was transported to the era of the Great Depression in the US where a young vet student joins a traditional big top circus, led by its perfectionist ringleader and his star performer wife.

I guess period set pieces like this would only appeal to certain people. I did not find the time or the setting particularly interesting. The presence of the the titular elephant Rosie was engaging though, as the beast actually seemed to emote. Christoph Waltz does another one of his charming sadist roles as August, the ringleader. Reese Witherspoon impressed me with some of her gymnastic skills as Marlena, but overall her performance was rather bland.

Most of the audience attention was on Robert Pattinson to see if he can step out of Edward's shadow in the Twilight movies. Interestingly, he plays a character named Jacob in this film. He has very distinct facial features which makes it hard for him to disappear into a role. He was able to show more variety here, and he looked right for the time period. It is still very much in the love story genre though, so his acting style is generally the same.

So the final verdict is: If you like love stories, you might like this movie. If you like the circus, you might like this movie. Despite all the rave reviews I have been reading about it, I found this film rather average because of the very familiar and therefore predictable storyline.

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