“If only the circus was really this magical, rather than a cruel place in which bears, elephants, tigers, and other animals voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls and jump through rings of fire because trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks and other painful tools of the trade.
Water for Elephants refuses to hide behind such shameful magic, telling the story of a handsome veterinary student called Jacob (Robert Pattinson) who falls for Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a married circus performer, in this romantic drama adapted from author Sara Gruen's bestselling novel, and directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend).
When Jacob meets Marlena it really is love at first sight, and who can blame the fella - their shared affections for extraordinary elephant Rosie stirring profound feelings of compassion within both of them. Forget Uggie, who also appears here as, you’ve guessed it, a performing dog, and forget the rest of the impressive cast because it’s the largest living land mammal that steals the show (and all the booze).
The trouble is, Marlena's dangerously domineering husband August (Christoph Waltz) threatens to spell tragedy for all involved, and not just because he has a silly name. Director Francis Lawrence gets the look and feel exactly right, and the combination of fairy tale fancifulness played out in such savage surroundings offers a brutal reality check not seen since Titanic. Of course, love will probably conquer all, and we all know who will deal the final crowd-pleasing blow, but if the film wants to prove that a man's greed is like a lion that wants to swallow an elephant, at least this one has the teeth to do it.” DW