April 22, 2011, - 6:27 pm

Weekend Box Office: “Water for Elephants”

By Debbie Schlussel

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 . . .

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10 Responses

Once again, I learn important things here that other reviewers never report. I did not know Christoph Waltz killed his employees and the other guys only report his beating the elephant and being mean to everyone. They don’t talk about him beating other animals or the coarse language which I feel is an important thing to know, especially if you think this may be a family movie. I had not planned to see this anyway, but it’s interesting to see how much the other guys aren’t telling you.

DavidJ on April 22, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Yup… savagely beating animals goes over well with the PUTAH crowd.

Oh and the Nazis while they hated and killed Jews by the millions, were ardent lovers of Nature and animal rights.

As you can see, the rotten apple of today’s animal rights movement doesn’t fall far from the ancestral tree.

But don’t look for liberal move critics to note the point.

NormanF on April 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I saw Water for Elephants today and hated it. You described it perfectly and succinctly as usual: a stale chick flick and animal rights commercial. 1 1/2 tofu turkeys is generous.

I also saw today for the second time Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. To my joy, it opened widely today, so I didn’t have to make the long drive that I did last week. I hope you and your readers won’t mind if I share some thoughts on the movie even though you didn’t personally review it; I know this film is of special interest to many conservatives, and I don’t think it’s being given a fair hearing in the mainstream media.

I consider the original Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand to be a genuine American masterpiece, dense with ideas, deeply original and profound. In my opinion, the book should be read and studied in our universities as a counterweight to the left’s unending stream of liberal propaganda.

The film adaptation is a beautiful, wonderful gem. It is by far the best film of the year. There are no close seconds.

Roger Ebert deviously argued in his movie review that “Objectivists and Ayn Rand fans will be disappointed” by the film and urged them not to see it. He knew that he didn’t have to convince liberals who already have their minds made up, so he targeted his remarks towards libertarians who might be curious about this controversial work. He’s wrong and disingenuous (as usual). Viewers have not actually been disappointed. Enthusiasm for the film at Rotten Tomatoes by average viewers is rated 85% which is extraordinarily high.

Yes, the film is “talky,” I suppose, especially if compared to visual crowd pleasers like Transformers, Green Hornet or Da Vinci Code. There’s no slapstick comic relief and no phony Dan Brown-style car chases or gruesome murders. And there are—and this seems to particularly pique the disdain of the critics– no 100-million-dollar special effects. So why, since there were no car chases, slapstick or special effects triumphs, did I so much love this film?

The movie has been disparaged as being “difficult to understand,” but I didn’t find it so. While the conversation is dense and textured and there are many characters to keep track of, I found that to be stimulating. A lot of the story concerns the way lobbyists, special interests, back-stabbing lawyers, federal agencies and corporate cronies influence legislation and business. This could be “boring” to those who have adopted the Marxist view that there are only the good “social reformers” who are the angels and “capitalist pigs” who are the devils. I myself was fascinated by the complicated inside-the-beltway detail. It reminded me of Michael Crichton’s Airframe which is likewise a sophisticated portrait of backdoor liberalism and influence (this is my favorite novel of his).

Most of what I loved about the film was intellectual, but I was also moved at times by dramatic moments. My two favorite scenes were the ones at the party with the necklace, and the climactic catastrophe at the end.

I have heard some say the film should have been a miniseries on TV. Impossible. It is too dense and politically incorrect to find its way onto the tube. I hate miniseries because they are slow as molasses, stupid and full of mawkish melodrama; this was not that.

The critique in this film of socialism is absolutely valid. Liberal parasites live off the dynamism of entrepreneurs who in effect create wealth out of nothing. Without this wealth, people not just in this country but all over the world will suffer. Liberals don’t care about all the suffering they cause with their policies, though; they are too busy preening and patting themselves on the back.

I always had heard that Ayn Rand championed the message that “greed and selfishness are good in themselves.” However, it’s made clear in the film that the entrepreneurs could have multiple times their wealth and luxury if they capitulated to government interests and gave up their quest to dynamically create wealth for others. Obviously, then, Rand does not champion “greed” in itself; that is a straw man caricature.

This film was far more hard-hitting and uncompromising with its conservative principles than David Zucher’s American Carol. AC had some great politically incorrect scenes, and Zucher was brave to make that film, but the notion in AC that the only problem with the current crop of Democrats was that they wandered away from John Kennedy’s original “pure” message is certainly wrong. Unlike American Carol, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 pulls no accommodating punches. It hits hard all the left’s sacred cows: socialist Mexico, liberal “fairness,” antitrust tinkering, federal institutes of “science,” the counterproductive effect of directly giving to the needy–in short, it hits all the platitudes that compose our current religion of politically correct socialism.

Critics did a hatchet job on American Carol with the intent to destroy. Even before seeing the movie, they made clear in communication with each other that the film needed to die so that others like it which were similarly politically incorrect would never appear again. Zucher has since stated that he will never make another conservative film. Now here comes a new conservative film that critics feel the need to destroy. The 6% approval rating by professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes is a travesty which demonstrates perverse bias. Actually, Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 is a finely acted, intelligently scripted, philosophically wise thriller as well as being an adaptation of one of America’s most important classics. I hope it is a box office success so that other movies like it will follow.

Burke on April 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Roger is a big advocate for Sharia, and a despicable scumbag. The only film he ever was involved in was a Russ Meyer sleazefest.

    The nature of his stupidity is fairly obvious when you realize that he could find NO antisemitism in Gibson’s “Passion.” Nuff said.

    Occam's Tool on April 24, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    An excellent review, Burke. Thanks. A lot more could be said because the novel has so many levels from which it can be analysed, but overall the movie is an excellent adaption. It is utterly faithful to the main plot, the characters, theme and the spirit of this great novel. See it!

    Good Looking on April 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Thanks Burke. I enjoyed your review. I will make sure to see it. Medfraud panned it and said the actress was the only good thing about it. I’ll judge for myself.

Yeah, I was disappointed with “American Carol” because it seemed so contrived. If they took more chances (like “Team America:World Police”) I would have liked it more. It seemed that it was trying too hard.

Interesting compare and contrast.

Skunky on April 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Thank you, Skunky, for reminding me of Team America. So there actually have been three movies in the last fifty years which explicitly made the conservative argument. That does relieve my pessimism, because I was remembering only two.

Burke on April 23, 2011 at 12:13 am

Too bad about Water for Elephants. The trailer I saw in the theaters looked okay and I enjoyed reading the book. I don’t remember the villain throwing his performers off the train, but he was a real piece of work and fed his animals rotten meat. Of course Hollywood has to invent and work in more
fiction to promote their agendas. Guess I’ll skip this one.

Great review by Burke, I plan on seeing Atlas Shrugged. Saw
a clip on Stossel’s show and it didn’t grab me, but that’s some great material for a movie. I’m not surprised the libs
are downgrading it.

Daniel K on April 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

    My husband and I saw Water For Elephants and we both loved it! He read the book and enjoyed it, but warned me about any animal cruelty. Yes, there are a few scenes of cruelty to animals that I had to turn away from, but they were integral to the storyline. Except for some animal cruelty, I enjoyed everything else about the movie – the settings, the good job of depicting the depression and that time period, along with the cars from the period and the whole feel of it, the acting, and the beautiful love story with a happy ending. I thought the chemistry between the stars was very good, and their acting brilliant. Can you tell, one of my favorite movies in a long time! At the end of the movie the audience clapped, and when I was in the ladies room afterward several in line were talking about how much they liked it. Don’t miss it because of some critics.

    We very much enjoyed Atlas Shrugged too. A terrific story and message that mirrors today in many ways. Can’t wait for the next two to follow.

    JLM on April 27, 2011 at 12:49 am

Thanks for the review, Debbie. I will not see “Water for Elephants”.

Also, thank you for your review of “Atlas Shrugged: Part One”, Burke. I saw the movie almost a week ago and also thought that it was great. I plan to see the movie again. I saw a negative review of the movie in one of the MSM papers. The review was BS. The reviewer tried to say that the movie was bad for reasons other than that it is a conservative movie, but that’s BS–it was because he movie was conservative that the reviewer hated it. I hope that not only will the other two parts of “Atlas Shrugged” be made and shown, but also that more conservative movies are made and let the MSM’s predictible negative reactions to them be damned.

JeffE on April 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm

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