Today: April 17, 2024
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Water for Elephants

Roll up, roll up! See what Robert Pattinson does in between filming the latest instalment of Twilight! Water For Elephants is an incredibly familiar yarn that wouldn’t be out of place showing at Sunday matinée and its A-list cast seem to be the only thing that will guarantee it the most fleeting of spotlights.

Roll up, roll up! See what Robert Pattinson does in between
filming the latest instalment of Twilight!
Water For Elephants is an
incredibly familiar yarn that wouldn’t be out of place showing at Sunday matinée
and its A-list cast seem to be the only thing that will guarantee it the most
fleeting of spotlights.

86-year old Jacob Jankowki (the marvellous Hal Holbrook) wanders
nostalgically around a circus parking lot gazing wistfully at the tents. The young owner takes him inside only to
find out that the Jacob is an old
circus hand himself who survived a famous disaster in the 1930s and sits down
to hear the tale of the Benzini Brothers Circus which sets up one long
flashback (in a cinematic move that should probably be called The Titanic
Manoeuvre).

As a young undergraduate studying veterinary science, young
Jacob’s is set up for a promising new life. But when his parents are killed in a car crash, he loses his
home and his future. Walking down
the railroad tracks in the middle of the night, he hops on board a passing
freight train – that of the Benzini Brothers travelling circus. Threatened with
the very real prospect of being thrown overboard, Jacob’s medical background
saves his skin when the flagging circus acquires an old elephant as a last
ditch attempt to pull in punters.

But can Jacob train the elephant before the circus’s
tyrannical ringmaster August’s (Christoph Waltz) impatience and violent
temperament gets out of hand and Jacob succumbs to the forbidden attraction of
his lovely wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon)?

It shines particularly in the costume department – all
sequined one-pieces, gigantic feathered headdresses, top hats and red frocked
coats which combine well to capture the flavour of the period. But despite the trapeze artists,
acrobats, live animals and clowns, it’s a curiously joyless affair – there’s
little to love beyond the exotic frippery.

There are no prizes for guessing where the plot’s going –
there are few surprises in a film which seems to be on rails in more than one
sense. Add to this an overdose of
sentimentality and Water For Elephants rapidly
becomes a cloying affair, Old Jacob’s parting lines of “I’m not running away,
I’m coming home” putting the final hilariously nauseating cherry on a cake
built out of predictable schmaltz.

The budding forbidden love affair between Jacob and Marlena
is completely without chemistry – Witherspoon in particular seems oddly emotionless
and Pattinson is content to stare glassy-eyed into the middle distance foras if
he might slip into outright catatonia at any moment. Even Waltz – delightfully devilish in Tarantino’s Inglourious
Basterds
and easily the highlight of Water
For Elephants
delivers a diluted
performance as the unpredictably savage August.

In truth, the star of the show is the four ton bulk of Rosie
the elephant who easily outshines her human co-stars in every scene. The greatest show on earth this ain’t.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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