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'Water For Elephants' Lacks Romantic Spark

Chemistry is wrong between the movie's star-crossed lovers.

I feel bad. I’ve been ragging on actors a lot lately. I don’t want to sound whiney, but I’m going to complain some more. Sorry 'bout that. 

Like the rest of the world, I loved “Water for Elephants,” a beautifully written, poignant novel by Sara Gruen. The book chronicles the early life of Jacob Jankowski, an orphaned Cornell veterinary student who joins a traveling circus during the Great Depression.

Adapting novels for the big screen is always a risk. How do you capture all those important, subtle details while still keeping the pacing up and the action exciting for those new to the story?

And perhaps most importantly, how do you cast well-developed characters, whom so many fans have already sketched in their minds? 

And this, for me, was the movie’s fatal flaw. Specifically: Robert Pattinson. 

Really? Of all the actors who, no doubt, vied for this role, the powers that be chose Mr. Sparkly Vampire Boy? Admittedly, I am biased, as I cannot stand to even look at him. He made my eyes roll in the “Twilight” series, and he made me wince in “Water for Elephants.”

Pattinson’s acting style is one that, if I were being gracious, I would call…understated. He kind of just stares in the general direction of the action and every now and again musters up a pout. In this case: Marlena, Jacob’s love interest and the circus’s star performer/wife of the tyrannical circus master, August, is mistreated = pout. The animals are in pain = pout. Jacob’s friends, Camel and Walter, are in trouble = pout. It gets old.

It didn’t help that Pattinson and his leading lady, the gorgeous Reese Witherspoon, had no chemistry to speak of.

I actually felt the fire much more between her and her controlling husband, August, played by the dynamic Christoph Waltz (best known for his Academy Award-winning performance in “Inglourious Basterds”).

Waltz is far and away the highlight of the film, walking a captivating line between arrogant, sadistic bastard and tortured, lost soul. Without his acting chops, this film would have fallen completely flat. With it, it will likely disappoint fans of Gruen’s novel but satisfy the general viewer in search of a good date night flick. Unless you’re “Team Gruen” and “Team Edward,” in which case, go immediately. You’ll adore.  

Catch it at the Regal Cinemas Saucon Valley Square 10 in Lower Saucon Township at 1:40pm, 4:30pm and 7:20pm.

Mary Anne Looby May 07, 2011 at 11:50 AM
I wondered about the casting myself. It didn't help to hear in all the pre release interviews that Witherspoon played Pattisons' Mother years ago in another film. I think there were plenty of other male actors who would have been better suited for this role. I felt the same way about Life With Marley. The actors chosen were for box office draw and were so illsuited for these rolls. I truly hate when a wonderful book is tainted by a bad movie. So many people who aren't avid readers will never pick up the book because of the movie.

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