Friday, January 27, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Water for Elephants (2011) ***

PG-13, 120 min.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Richard LaGravanese, Sara Gruen (novel)
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Jim Norton, Hal Holbrook, Mark Povinelli

It was a little over a year ago that I saw the trailer for “Water for Elephants” before watching the movie “True Grit” with my father. He confessed to me that he had loved the book. He had a look of guilty pleasure on his face. This was coming from a man who has hardly read a book that didn’t involve Green Beret’s, Marines, or Navy SEALs in his entire life. Certainly, this intrigued me to see this circus-based romance.

I think this may be a case of the book being better than the movie, although the movie is solid in what it is trying to be. It’s a little predictable, but the journey is fairly well done. The story involves a young man during the depression, who stows away on a circus train. To save himself from being thrown off in a manner that would likely leave him severely injured, he offers his services as a veterinarian.

The man who runs the circus is a tyrant who employs his wife as his star attraction. She catches the eye of the young man, and the stage for a Shakespearean tragic romance is set. Robert Pattinson plays the young man in a more challenging romance than his “Twilight” gig. Christoph Waltz is the mean-spirited circus manager. This role is a little more standard than his Oscar-winning turn as Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”, but Waltz still pulls off an impressive performance.

There are a few points where the story seems to drag just slightly, but for the most part this is an engaging drama that reveals some interesting points about the traveling circus life and life during the depression seen from a unique view point. Pattinson’s screen charisma is easier to discern here for the non-Twihards. This could make a good Valentine’s Day stay-in date movie.

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