WATER FOR ELEPHANTS
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
When “Water for Elephants” came out earlier this summer, I was not in any hurry to see it. And the reason for this is that I really have no interest in Robert Pattinson. I didn’t think he was much of an actor in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and when he dived into the “Twilight” movies, he showed how awful he can actually be. So seeing a serious headlining of a movie for him was not high on my list.
But in a strange way, I did enjoy “Water for Elephants” in spite of Pattinson’s Billy Idol sneer as he hacked through his lines. (To be honest, I think Pattinson’s problem is that he has to hide his accent in his big films, which contributes to a wooden delivery and his uncomfortable glower.)
The story is typical ripped-from-the-book-club fodder. A young Polish-American named Jakob (Pattinson) runs off to join the circus after his parents are killed in an accident and he is unable to finish his college degree. There, he falls in love with the beautiful feature act, Marlene (Reese Witherspoon), who is married to the overbearing ringmaster (Christoph Waltz).
The story is what you’d expect from a period drama romance. There’s a lot of unrequited love, stolen glances and jealousy in hard times. I wasn’t wild about the plot, considering it seemed rather rote, a tired version of the well-to-do girl who falls in love with the rustic charmer. But the acting (well, the acting that wasn’t perpetrated by Robert Pattinson) was pretty good. It was nice to see Reese Witherspoon return to the screen, and Christoph Waltz plays an excellent villain (something we already knew from “Inglourious Basterds”).
The real appeal of this movie is the epic backdrop of the 1930s-era train circus. This is where the special effects and costuming budget went. For the nostalgic view of the traveling circus, this film is quite epic. Additionally, the cinematography looks grand and is pretty amazing to watch on Blu-ray.
This opinion seems to be shared with the people who authored the Blu-ray, considering most of the features spotlighted the circus angle rather than the stars. There are several 20-minute featurettes on the recreation of the circus environment as well as an audio commentary. But don’t worry, Witherspoon and Pattinson each get their own behind-the-scenes spotlight as well.