“Water For Elephants” is a throwback to the big studio productions of the 50’s, no surprises, but a well crafted circus film with fine acting, terrific photography, and a drama well told, based a a popular novel by Sara Gruen. I did not read the book but I’m guessing it’s fans should be satisfied with the way it’s handled by director Francis Lawrence ( “I Am Legend”). Oscar winner (“Inglorious Basterds”) Cristoph Waltz is terrific as evil circus owner August Rosenbluth and manages to nuance his evilness to keep us intrigued as to how far he will go to keep his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) in tow and out of the arms of Rob Pattinson’s character, animal handler Jacob Jankowski. The setting is the depths of the depression and the Benzini Brothers Circus is struggling to stay afloat. The story begins with an aged Jacob, wonderfully played by Hal Holbrook, telling his story to a modern day small circus owner, his voice morphs into Robert Pattinson’s as young Jacob and our story of forbidden love amid animal cruelty begins. Jacob is about to graduate from Cornell Veterinary School when tragedy cuts his schooling short and leaves him homeless. His skills are soon called upon as he stumbles upon the circus and begins to work wonders with equestrian star Marlena and Rosie, the elephant that becomes her new charge the new star attraction of the circus. August soon becomes¬† suspicious and the tension builds. Reese Witherspoon is wonderful in an understated way and performs her own stunts with the elephant. Her chemistry with Rob Pattinson is totally believable (oddly, they worked together as mother and son in a deleted scene in 2004’s “Vanity Fair”).

Rated PG13

My GPA: 3.5

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