Metascore
52

Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 35
  2. Negative: 5 out of 35
Watch On
  1. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Apr 21, 2011
    40
    Add romantic chemistry to the list of things that fall flat in the film, alongside dialogue and acting.
  2. Reviewed by: Kimberley Jones
    Apr 27, 2011
    30
    No one would mistake the Benzini Bros. Circus for the greatest show on earth – the Depression-era traveling troupe is a junker compared to the gold-standard Ringling Bros. – but still, a film has to try pretty hard to render lions and tigers and trapeze artists so uniformly underwhelming.
  3. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Apr 21, 2011
    50
    The camera, costumes, and art direction do everything right. Too much so. The movie strips away both the grand weirdness of the circus and the dire desolation of the Depression. Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange are exchanged for Vanity Fair.
  4. Reviewed by: Pam Grady
    Apr 21, 2011
    50
    Waltz is the highlight of this glossy but plodding drama, a live wire in a movie that sorely needs a jolt.
  5. Reviewed by: Andrea Gronvall
    Apr 28, 2011
    50
    Features a credible and sympathetic performance from Robert Pattinson as an orphaned veterinary student who joins a traveling circus. Yet the film otherwise suffers from a lack of showmanship.
  6. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Apr 21, 2011
    75
    In an age of prefabricated special effects and obviously phony spectacle, it's sort of old-fashioned (and a pleasure) to see a movie made of real people and plausible sets.
  7. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Apr 21, 2011
    88
    Like "The Notebook," but with an elephant, the unexpectedly good film version of Water for Elephants elevates pure corn to a completely satisfying realm of romantic melodrama.
  8. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Apr 22, 2011
    75
    The film has a pleasing retro-ness that often mitigates the dullness.
  9. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    May 2, 2011
    60
    Familiar but enjoyable. Not being funny, the elephant (Rosie, played by nine-foot enchantress Tai) is the real star as the most moving and only joyful presence in sight.
  10. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Apr 22, 2011
    58
    Something is wrong under this big tent. Actually made to resemble a good old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing movie, this cinematic Water for Elephants droops and lumbers like Rosie the elephant herself.
  11. Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
    Apr 25, 2011
    50
    Beautifully designed, sufficiently choreographed, insipid but watchable, Elephants stresses that showbiz is about the maintenance of an illusion by any means necessary.
  12. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Apr 21, 2011
    70
    If the circus is a hierarchical pyramid, August is at the very top. It's a part tailor-made for the accomplished Waltz, an Oscar winner for "Inglourious Basterds," and he eats it alive.
  13. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Apr 21, 2011
    75
    "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson gets a chance to shed his sparkly vampire persona and play a romantic lead with a pulse. The change suits him.
  14. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Apr 21, 2011
    85
    One of those big, extravagant-looking romances that you might automatically deem "conventional" - except for the fact that almost nobody makes big, extravagant-looking romances anymore.
  15. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Apr 22, 2011
    60
    The primary drawback is the lack of chemistry between the leads, Reese Witherspoon and "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson.
  16. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Apr 22, 2011
    38
    Less fun than any circus movie I've ever seen - and I've seen lots. Maybe they should send in the clowns.
  17. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Apr 21, 2011
    50
    Whatever romance and charm Gruen summoned forth from these rough and tumble show people living by their own laws in a traveling, self-contained world of poverty and cruelty, director Francis Lawrence has hacked and ground them off.
  18. Reviewed by: Carrie Rickey
    Apr 21, 2011
    75
    Steamy and sexy with a smack of sadism, the movie is a throwback to old-school Hollywood action/romance.
  19. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Apr 25, 2011
    63
    Sadly, passion and romance are two ingredients missing from this melodrama, which does an excellent job of re-creating the Depression-era circus business.
  20. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Apr 21, 2011
    63
    It's all in the telling. Gruen provided grit and pungent detail. The movie settles for gloss.
  21. Apr 21, 2011
    50
    You know how they say to find one thing and do one thing well? Well, Pattinson's thing is glowering. It doesn't help matters that the movie itself is so painfully mediocre.
  22. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Apr 21, 2011
    75
    In Water for Elephants, Waltz plays a circus owner and ringleader during the Great Depression, and when he's onscreen, every eye is on him, no matter who is talking.
  23. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Apr 23, 2011
    70
    Yes, this is the kind of movie you could imagine seeing with your grandmother at a suburban mall, but does everything have to be edgy and dark and genre-reinventing?
  24. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Apr 22, 2011
    50
    The most rewarding way to watch Water for Elephants is to focus on the sideshow of costumes and craftsmanship, because the romance in the center ring smells like trained animals going through the motions.
  25. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Apr 21, 2011
    75
    Reese Witherspoon can do a lot of things as an actor but playing a damaged-goods Depression era dame isn't one of them.
  26. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Apr 21, 2011
    50
    It's a tastefully managed, passionless melodrama, full of brooding looks and reasonably sweet moments, but typified by a scantly characterized central couple who bring no sense of engagement to their relationship.
  27. Reviewed by: Rick Groen
    Apr 22, 2011
    63
    When the tent folds and the dust settles, the question is not whether the movie is good – sorry, not a chance – but whether it's garish enough, sappy enough, Hollywood enough to rise to the level of being likeably bad. Is it, in short, a guilty pleasure?
  28. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Apr 21, 2011
    50
    Will please fans of Sara Gruen's best seller, but it lacks the vital spark that would have made the drama truly compelling on the screen.
  29. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Apr 21, 2011
    20
    Short-circuits the novel's quirky charms and period atmosphere by its squeamish attitude toward gritty circus life and smothers the drama under James Newton Howard's insufferable wall-to-wall musical soup.
  30. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Apr 21, 2011
    20
    The proceedings get so slow and saccharine that viewers will relishes the film's moments of redeeming idiocy. In one of them, Marlena whispers to Jacob, "Bring Rosie to my tent and don't tell anyone" - as if the roustabouts wouldn't notice a 12-ft.-tall, 10,000-lb. creature striding down the midway.
  31. Reviewed by: Ben Kenigsberg
    Apr 26, 2011
    40
    Without larger-than-life drama or a steady stream of historical detail, it's merely a gargantuan production that's been lavished on a story hardly worth trumpeting.
  32. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Apr 21, 2011
    63
    Mildly entertaining, though the best performances come not from the stars, but the supporting players.
  33. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Apr 21, 2011
    90
    The filmmakers clearly value their public, crafting a splendid period swooner that delivers classic romance and an indelible insider's view of 1930s circus life.
  34. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Apr 21, 2011
    20
    How do I count the ways this movie goes wrong?
  35. Reviewed by: Michael O'Sullivan
    Apr 21, 2011
    63
    Big, slick and showy. It is also undeniably effective entertainment.
User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 167 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 56 out of 71
  2. Negative: 5 out of 71
  1. Apr 22, 2011
    10
    WOW! More than I expected! Great entertaining movie for both men and women. Rob Pattinson just jumps off the screen. He is excellent inWOW! More than I expected! Great entertaining movie for both men and women. Rob Pattinson just jumps off the screen. He is excellent in this. Christoph plays the villain magnificently. Great film with excellent cinematography and costuming. All around a must see movie. Full Review »
  2. May 1, 2011
    10
    Absolutely a beautiful movie with wonderful performances from all the cast. Anyone who says differently has their "I hate Rob Pattinson andAbsolutely a beautiful movie with wonderful performances from all the cast. Anyone who says differently has their "I hate Rob Pattinson and everything he does" glasses on (including some critics)!!!! But trust me, this movie is very worth seeing and very well done by all involved! Full Review »
  3. Apr 22, 2011
    10
    Excellent movie! Breathtaking! Best performance ever by Rob Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz. Truly a movie everyoneExcellent movie! Breathtaking! Best performance ever by Rob Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz. Truly a movie everyone should see. Just wonderful! Full Review »