April 22, 2011, - 6:27 pm
There’s a lot of hype surrounding the highly stylized “Water for Elephants,” set in the 1930s and debuting in theaters today. Don’t believe it. It’s basically a two-hour animal rights commercial mixed with a very stale chick flick, lacking any spark. On top of that, this movie is just a violent waste of time set in a traveling circus with cool old-time fashions. It’s long, slow, boring, and entirely predictable. There is absolutely no magic or chemistry between the two romantic leads, Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon may be cute–and in this movie, she is very pretty–but this flick solidified it for me: she’s over-rated as an actress and not very good at the job. Her performance was flat.
The only thing I got out of this movie was learning that Christoph Waltz can only play one role: cold, calculating, violent, cruel Nazi killer. He’s taken his famous Nazi role from “Inglourious Basterds” (read my review) and transferred it into his German immigrant circus owner role. Heil Big Top. Instead of beating Jews, though, Waltz is beating elephants. Get it?–Animals are persecuted like Jews. Of course, that’s absurd, but that’s essentially what the filmmakers must want you to think since they cast him in the “Nazi” circus animal abuser role. The guy is a one-note act. But PETA (or as we call it on this site, PUTAh–People for the Unethical Treatment of Animals and humans) must be orgasmic over this movie.
The story: an old man (Hal Holbrook, the only character you really like and care about in the movie–other than the elephant, and he’s only in the opening and closing scenes, as the less likeable Pattinson plays him as a younger man for most of the movie) wanders around the entrance of a modern-day circus, where the circus operators confuse him for a senile man who has missed the bus back to the old folks home. While waiting for them to call his caretakers, he sees a picture of the traveling circus operation, Benzini Brothers, for which he used to work.
The man is Jacob Jankowski , whose parents were Polish immigrants in 1931, during the Depression. They put him through veterinary school at Cornell, but as he’s taking his final exams, they die in an accident, and he loses everything. He gets a job with a traveling circus, where he works as an ad hoc veterinarian and falls in love with the wife (Witherspoon) of the evil circus owner (Waltz). The owner beats animals and kills his performers by throwing them head first off the traveling circus train, when he cannot afford to pay them. Much of the movie surrounds an elephant act, which is a successful circus attraction.
Young, strapping guy rescues beautiful woman from her evil, abusive husband. You’ve seen this story a million times before, and the only difference here is the setting and costumes. There’s nothing new or interesting here, and it’s not even particularly well told. Not even close.
I’m surprised the movie is PG-13, because it isn’t for kids, even with parents. The movie is very violent and there are lots of beatings and killings, in addition to lots of four-letter words. In the second scene of the movie, Pattinson talks about his experience in veterinary school as “shoving my hand up so many cows’ a–es.” Yup, you stay classy Hollywood.
I wish I could say this was mildly entertaining, but it wasn’t. I struggled to stay awake. It was like watching paint dry, and Witherspoon’s absolutely stunning old school haute couture clothing wasn’t enough to keep me interested (and I love that vintage stuff). Her character wasn’t that likeable either. Just kinda selfish.
Like I said, this one is slow, dull, boring and a commercial for the anti-circus, animal rights crowd that really does see circus owners as top Nazi generals. Perspective, morons. Perspective. I was gonna give this film one-and-a-half tofurkeys, but instead, I give it . . .
Watch the trailer . . .
Tags: Animal Rights, Christoph Waltz, circus, Elephant, Hal Holbrook, movie, movie review, Movie Reviews, Nazi, PETA, PUTAh, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, violent, Water for Elephants