User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 177 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 14 out of 177

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User Reviews

  1. Aug 10, 2012
    4
    While the source material was quality, this film doesn't quite pan out, as Robert Pattinson's performance is flat, while he and Reese Witherspoon have the collective romantic chemistry of a dirty dish towel. That said, Christoph Waltz's deliciously evil performance counter-balances quite a few missteps.
  2. Jun 17, 2011
    4
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. "Please don't die...please don't die," a young boy pleas to the elephant in decline as blood hemorrhages from his senescent trunk onto the pavement of a dirty Mexican street, where it pools, the same place as his tears, in "Santa Sangre", the 1989 cult classic that makes David Lynch's experiments in surrealism look demure by comparison. The boy magician loves the mammoth beast, but to the starving people of a depressed Mexican town, the pachyderm represents meat. Unlike August in "Water For Elephants", fellow circus owner Orgo, perhaps, recognizes the obscenity of feeding his animal acts while destitute people go starving. While the elephant makes its way through the red-light district of the city slums, the hungry masses wait in anticipation with hammers and greedy hands for the funeral procession to culminate at the steep rock overhang, where the coffin, as if at at sea, slides down from its ramp and winds up at the bottom of the gorge. On cue, the people surround the tremendous casket like ants, breaching its iron cover, in which one man with a machete proceeds to hack away at the venerated animal to pieces, starting with the trunk, so forlorn looking in its new context as a vivisected edible. The boy sees the circus performer being savaged for food. He makes water for the elephant. That's what the filmmaker needs out of its lead actor. Jacob has to cry, because its integral to the film's success that the quasi-veterinarian loves the elephant and girl in equal measure. If Robert Pattinson, an actor of limited range, couldn't turn on the waterworks, then the emotional heavy-lifting should have fallen to the elephant. From the novel, Sara Gruen writes, "I turn to Rosie. She stares at me, a look of unspeakable sadness on her face. Her amber eyes are filled with tears." This is where the reader feels the bond between man and animal the strongest. But for some inexplicable reason, the scribe leaves out this key scene of indelible animal cruelty, in which August flicks a cigarette into Rosie's mouth, forcing the panicked animal to fish the butt out with her trunk. Instead "Water For Elephants" relies on Pattinson as the entry point for viewers in regard to the film's largely implied violence. Unlike his literary predecessor, the actor, best known as a glittering vampire from the "Twilight" saga, looks insufficiently mortified at the thought of August thrashing Rosie with a bullhook behind the cage's sliding door. He doesn't fight hard enough for the elephant. He lies down in resignation after August's yes-men act as bulwarks against his halfhearted attempt at intervening. The Gruen novel places Jacob with Marlena when the beating takes place, wracking the Cornell dropout with guilt. Had the book mirrored the film's narrative restructuring, the Jacob from the bestseller would have been pounding his fists on the iron door, while at the same time, screaming bloody murder at August to stop the senseless bludgeoning. The major failing of this adaptation is that the script prevents Jacob from being Rosie's protector. The elephant should be man's best friend, so to speak. "Water For Elephants" is much too preoccupied with the pretty people. There's no room for the freaks. Too bad, because a nod to "Freaks" wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. By putting a deemphasis on the presence of human oddities, ubiquitous to all circuses during the Depression era, the Benzini Brothers' operation looks too respectable and modern, too politically correct to be believed. In the book, the flea-bitten operation stumbles upon Rosie as an afterthought, a consolation prize, when Charles Whatsit, a man rumored to have an infant stuck in his chest, had long been snatched up by the Ringling people, much to Uncle Al's chagrin. He loved freaks. Unfortunately, this mildly bowdlerized adaptation of the popular novel, makes the autocratic ringmaster disappear, or maybe he's sticking out of August's chest, since, after all, much of the circus owner's despicable attributes has been folded into August's character, in particular, Al's many cutthroat practices, in particular, his habit of "redlighting" inessential employees from a moving train. The spirit of August's character gets hurt by this amalgamation. The menagerie director, flawed in the Gruen novel, is now completely without the nuances of a recognizable human being. He's a monster. "Water for Elephants" makes no mention of his paranoid schizophrenia. Lost in the transition from the book to the screen is that August dearly loves his wife. It's Al, not August, whom Jacob upsets when he puts down Marlena's favorite liberty horse. Ironically, August wants to protect his wife from the gunshot blast, but inevitably, because of his mental illness, he can't protect her from himself. The film renders him one-dimensional. "Water for Elephants" is all about Jacob's love for Marlena. It has no room for any competing loves, human or animal-wise. Expand
  3. Apr 25, 2011
    5
    I was hesitant to go to this film as I saw one of the Twilight movies and that was one of the most horrible experiences of my movie going career. However, a friend of mine talked me into it. Water for Elephants turned out to be a better movie than I thought it would be, albeit predictable. As it turns out, Robert Pattinson was not horrible as I thought he would be, but there are stillI was hesitant to go to this film as I saw one of the Twilight movies and that was one of the most horrible experiences of my movie going career. However, a friend of mine talked me into it. Water for Elephants turned out to be a better movie than I thought it would be, albeit predictable. As it turns out, Robert Pattinson was not horrible as I thought he would be, but there are still moments where the look on his face does not match the scene, such as when his boss was training him how to use the elephant stick to train the elephant. He had this stupid grin on his face the whole time even though what his boss was showing him was horrifying. However, overall he did a pretty good job. I just thought it was a tad too predictable and it started to bore me halfway through. Expand
  4. May 7, 2011
    5
    Water for Elephants is a reasonably entertaining movie that will get ahold of you emotionally if you're not careful. Unfortunately, it has several significant flaws that really kill the overall product.

    1. Robert Pattinson is an awful actor. He makes Reese Witherspoon look like Helen Mirren and we all know that Reese is not that great of an actress. Pattinson obviously tries hard to
    Water for Elephants is a reasonably entertaining movie that will get ahold of you emotionally if you're not careful. Unfortunately, it has several significant flaws that really kill the overall product.

    1. Robert Pattinson is an awful actor. He makes Reese Witherspoon look like Helen Mirren and we all know that Reese is not that great of an actress. Pattinson obviously tries hard to display different types of emotion but his face just ends up looking the same almost every time. We can only daydream about what someone like Ewan McGregor would've done with this role.

    2. The writing is subpar at best. The storyline is obvious from the very beginning and the characters are far too shallow to be compelling - The good guys (Pattinson) are perfect virtuous heroes and the bad guys (Waltz) are heinous and sub-human villains. There is literally not a single character who displays even a consistent modicum of moral ambiguity and that makes the story a non-starter in terms of believability.

    3. There is ONE prominent female character in this movie and she is a weak figure dependent on males around her for everything. What' more, her eventual 'liberation' from an abusive relationship is nothing of the sort - it's simply moving from one dependency to another. These are old school gender roles and relationships - The man has to save the poor defenseless woman and not 'save her' so she can find herself and be strong in her own personhood and self, but rather 'save her' to be his own. It's a story where women are treated as objects and possessions and even the kindest and most loving men are essentially still in charge of the woman's destiny. The movie never outs its bias on this matter and treats it as though it is settled fact - Clearly, it was not settled fact in the 1930s and it is not settled fact now.

    All in all, despite these criticisms, the movie was entertaining if you set your expectations low and turn off the critical portion of your brain - If you show up just to be entertained, you will be entertained. If you show up looking for wonderful acting, strong writing and believable plot/characters, you will be sorely disappointed.
    Expand
  5. May 7, 2011
    6
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This movie has a wonderfully photographed period look in its costumes and in its images of circuses on the edges of 1931 American towns, with pennants fluttering in strong winds atop tents. Such images made we want to run away and join a circus unrelated to this movie, which is melodramatic and emotionally manipulative in unclever, obvious ways. Roger Ebert pointed me to this movie by praising what it could do without crass special effects. But it still has the bludgeoning moralism of many action movies, a tyrannical villain (played with panache by Christoph Waltz) and a two-dimensionally "good" antagonist (Robert Pattinson, who looks great, but is capable of 1.8 facial expressions as an actor) who is, over and over again, placed in situations in which he can't do anything to right the wrongs (often controlled by Waltz's character). "Oh, wrench your hands in frustration, and await catharsis" these scenes instruct us. The director has annoyingly confused melodramatic tension with actual drama--evidently ordering these players to be cardboard-like and passive (except Waltz, and maybe the elephant, who steals the movie) in order to ratchet up frustration and expectation ("oh, when will evil be recompensed?!," we are supposed to feel, chronically). Implicitly, the movie's soundtrack, which is one long, monotonous instruction to "feel the impending doom within this ambiguously sweet spectacle" is really the star of the movie, when it could have been Reese Witherspoon, or somebody who could act better than Pattison, who looks, without benefit, like he's in an ad for Polo cologne in much of the film. Expand
  6. May 10, 2011
    5
    I, like a lot of sons probably, went to see Water for Elephants with my family on Mother's day. I've got to say, this movie was pretty solid for the most part, and I definitely didn't expect it to be. A lot of elements about this movie were really fantastic. The cinematography for one, Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto really did fabulous work showing you a side of the circus most ofI, like a lot of sons probably, went to see Water for Elephants with my family on Mother's day. I've got to say, this movie was pretty solid for the most part, and I definitely didn't expect it to be. A lot of elements about this movie were really fantastic. The cinematography for one, Director of Photography Rodrigo Prieto really did fabulous work showing you a side of the circus most of us will never see. Scenes on the Benzini Brothers train are extremely colorful and well shot, there's also a montage of Jacob's first circus that really stands out. The writing was also top notch and I've been told that the book this movie is based on is very good, so that's not a big surprise. This film is also paced well, it moves along at a good steady pace for a large majority and only drags for a few scenes. However, the most notable item in this film is Christoph Waltz. This guy is really just a phenomenal actor, no doubt about it. Now I've only seen this and Inglorious Basterds but in both of these movies, he's just incredible and I'm glad he's getting the recognition he deserves. That covers what I liked about the movie, now why didn't it get a higher score? This movie has some of the WORST lead performances I've ever witnessed on film. It's a huge let down because everything else about this movie is quite strong, but Pattinson and Witherspoon have absolutely no chemistry, or acting capabilities period. It's literally painful watching these two butcher what could have been such a great love story with their idiotic mumblings and **** terrible presence. You end up wishing Christoph's character would just kill them both and we can just watch him be crazy for the rest of the movie. It's like if an artist hand painted a beautiful piece and then stood up, dropped trou, and took a gigantic **** all over the canvas and tried to have a conversation with it. Read the rest of the review on my film review site, rocketcrossing.com, and check out our facebook page at facebook.com/rocketcrossing. Expand
  7. May 28, 2011
    5
    "Water for Elephants" is an interesting story that would probably have been more entertaining with a different cast. The three main players possessed no chemistry, and at the end, I no longer cared about their relationships.
  8. May 10, 2011
    4
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. WFE is this years Avatar. Raving Reviews, huge accolades, then when the shine wears off you realize you have seen this movie a hundred times before, only this time they are blue, sorry I mean they have an elephant.

    It is a formula movie. Married couple meet single younger man. Single man falls fo wife and then realizes the husband is a jerk. That said, wife has no intention of leaving said jerk even when jerk forces them to admit their undying love. only when jerk then beats wife, now she will leave.

    This is just another example of how Hollywood has lost its taste for originality and story telling, electing to go the easy formula route, that costs little and guarantees a modest success.

    The film is well acted, and you could do worse, but don't go in expecting any surprising twists, there aren't any, everything is on the surface so rest assure there is a happy ending.
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  9. Nov 14, 2011
    6
    I love the book! I think I like the story about Jacob as an old man more than the actual love story. I wished that they played that up a bit more in the movie. As for the love story, I though it fell a little flat. Reese, whom I love, I thought wasnâ
  10. Nov 24, 2011
    6
    Same old story, water for Elephants was just fine. Characters were good enough but story was something, i would say, boring or at least close to that. It was one of those typically predictable movies.
  11. Feb 20, 2012
    5
    Interesting to enter the cirkus universe. But the mysterious foreigner, the sexy blond, the bad guy, we've already seen it. it was not realistic enough.
  12. Mar 30, 2012
    5
    Water for elephants is a nice looking film but i couldn't get over the fact that the casting in this movie couldn't have been worst. I also started to lose interest in the last 30 minutes because of how boring it was.
  13. Jun 11, 2013
    4
    Such a corny movie. The entire set up was there except it just didn't deliver. The acting was pretty bad, and it wasn't as magical or exciting as I thought it was going to be. Could have been far worse, but it exceeded in terms of disappointment.
  14. Oct 15, 2013
    6
    "Water for Elephants" could be more than it is. A beautiful story about love. Circus is stage, it has many colours. Young man loves to older woman than him. It has an interesting story and screenplay but...Robert Pattinson has no charm with Reese Witherspoon. Pattinson is a good actor but there are no chemical link with her. It's a pain becauses this love story I really loved it.
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.