Water For Elephants

Got loads of reviews to catch up on, but thought I’d get this one out first whilst it’s still fresh in my memory. Don’t take the fact that I saw it on release date as an endorsement or anything either.

Water For Elephants (2011)
Before I start, let us just look at the title. Something about it just strikes me oddly. It seems like it should be the ironic title for some poor African refugee’s life story, not some guff involving circuses. At the very end of the film the title flashes up again, like we’re all meant to have a deeper understanding of it. Well I didn’t- it was a throwaway line of dialogue spoken by an extra. Very odd. Anyway, I wasn’t exactly counting down the days until I saw Gravy For Dolphins but as I’ve seen it, I thought I should share my thoughts like I always do.
“I don’t know if I picked that circus. But something told me that circus picked me.”
Water For Elephants starts with 90 year old Jacob Jankowski (Hal Holbrook) recounting his days in the circus when he looked like, not to mention was as thespianally challenged as, a certain Mr. Robert Pattinson. Jankowski is a failed veterinary surgeon who falls on very hard times and ends up employed by the Benzini Brothers travelling circus, run by ringleader and part-time psychopath August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz). Whilst there, Jacob starts getting closer to August’s wife and star attraction Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) who delights audiences with her gymnastics, trained horse shows and her ability to break cinderblocks with her massive chin. Also, a special shout-out to Bishop Brennan himself Jim Norton, who does a fine job as Camel- Jacob’s hard drinkin’ mentor.
The plot is damn familiar. We start with a very Titanic-esque framing device and the deja-vu doesn’t let up from there. If you’ve ever seen a gangster film where the rookie takes a shine to a beautiful girl only to find she belongs to the big boss, you’ve seen this film. The romance is as standard as this very sentence proclaiming it so. Robert Pattinson hasn’t learned to act yet. Lager For Crocodiles was the film that enabled me to work out my big problem with him- he can’t frown or smile convincingly. Whenever he frowns, he looks like he’s really concentrating on frowning, rather than y’know acting. His frowny face reminded me of the face a baby pulls when it’s shitting itself- oddly intense. Reece Witherspoon didn’t do much apart from squeeze into glittery costumes. Christoph Waltz was good as August, but his character seemed like a watered down version of Hans Landa to me. Where Landa was quietly malevolent for most of Inglourious Basterds, August is an out-and-out bell-end, leaving us with a caricature of a bad guy and not a believable presence. Still, he’s better here than as Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet.
This film is safe, safe, safe. We have preteen poontang magnet Pattinson coupled with Oscar winners Witherspoon and Waltz. It’s a bankable cast. Setting aside the lavish circus setting, it’s a boring but time-tested and financially viable story of forbidden romance. The film is strangely hollow, with any light-hearted moments (excluding the ones with the genuinely brilliant elephant) strangely empty. There’s a bit where Jacob gets has too much to drink and wakes up in a box, in full clown makeup and a dress. Normally this would be a funny moment, but it feels too contrived to garner any joy. The only bit that got a significant reaction from the audience was when Rosie the elephant did a handstand. It’s fucking impressive and almost worth the price of admission alone. 
“You do right by me, I’ll show you a life most suckers can’t even dream of.”
Pepsi For Lemurs isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t great either. Although stuff happened, I have found myself properly struggling to think of anything else to write about it. Whilst the ending isn’t quite what you expect, there’s one bit which is so fucking ridiculous I let out a loud snort of derision audible above the shitstorm happening on-screen. It’s the sort of film you buy for your Mum on DVD for Mother’s Day ‘cos “she likes that Cullen boy and ooh, loves Reece Witherspoon.” When it comes down to it, Water For Elephants is perfectly fine for what it is, it’s just not very exciting.

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