Who didn’t dream of running away with the circus? Perhaps that thrill now belongs to an older generation, but at least we all get to indulge in that once-universal fantasy in 'Water for Elephants', a likable adaptation of the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen, set during the Great Depression.
After the sudden death of his parents, veterinary student Jacob Jankowski (played by a warm-blooded Pattinson), leaps onto a midnight train and into a world of complete wonderment - The Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Here he is soon integrated into the travelling circus’ tight-knit group of performers and workers and promoted to circus vet.
It’s not long before he also lays eyes on Marlena (Witherspoon), the star performer of the show and ‘off-limits’ wife of hot-tempered circus boss August (Waltz). You can guess where it goes from here!
Director Francis Lawrence succeeds in bringing all the allure and spectacle of the big top to the big screen in this visually captivating movie. The lead actors' performances, especially Witherspoon’s, are where the glaring faults lie - their best scenes involve them and a 9,000-pound elephant, Rosie.
In a supporting role, Waltz outdoes himself as the show’s crazed owner. It's a role that is tailor-made for his strengths and not all that dissimilar to the character he portrayed in his Oscar-winning performance in 'Inglourious Basterds'.
However, the refreshing thing about this movie is that it isn’t a super-hero sequel and it’s not based on a board-game – it’s a good old fashioned tale of love and betrayal, and that’s something we haven’t seen for quite some time.