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Published:April 21st, 2011 21:21 EST

Water for Elephants Brings Robert Pattinson and the Circus to Town!

By Paulette Cohn

If you`ve ever wished you had run away and joined the circus, watching Water for Elephants will cure you of that dream. Set in the era of the Great Depression, the movie shows that the reality of life under the big top -- at least at that time -- is a far cry from a childhood fantasy. Rather, there is animal cruelty, corrupt circus folk, and dishonest, psycho bosses, who think no more of throwing a man off of a train to avoid paying him than squashing a fly.

waterforelephants_robertpattinson_reesewitherspoonThe movie, like the book by Sara Gruen, is a look back at the life of now eightysomething Jacob (Hal Holbrook) " he is not sure of his exact age, 80 or 83 -- who has been abandoned by his family in a nursing home on the day the circus comes to town.

waterforelephants_robertpattinson_taiSome of Jacob`s happiest years as a young man (young Jacob is played by Robert Pattinson) were spent traveling with the circus, and, of course, it was at the Benzini Bros. Circus that he met Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the love of his life. So old Jacob takes himself to the circus on his own and we watch his life unfold as he recounts the narrative of a bygone time.

Water for Elephants
begins when tragedy overtakes Jacob, who is just about to take his final exams to become a veterinarian and join his father in his small-town practice. Paralyzed by an abundance of bad news, Jacob bolts on his exams, taking to the rails. The train he happens to hop is that of the Benzini Bros.

Jacob is taken in by some of the kindlier members of the troupe, and later cements his future with August (Christoph Waltz) by revealing his knowledge of animals. But it is when he sees Marlena perform atop her dazzling white horses that his fate is truly sealed.

Needless to say, the road to romance is not an easy one, and in Water for Elephants, Marlena is married to August, the owner of the fading circus and a very jealous and unstable husband, played rivetingly by Waltz.

Waltz, along with Bella (Tai), the elephant, steals the movie. And while both Pattinson and Witherspoon have the chops for their roles, what seems to be missing between them is the overwhelming chemistry that Jacob feels for Marlena, so much so he eventually puts his life in jeopardy in an attempt to rescue her.

For readers of Gruen`s novel, Water for Elephants sufficiently keeps the spirit of the book to be satisfying, but in adapting it for the screen, there were several changes made in the story.

Water for Elephants, directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese, is a 20th Century Fox release. It opens in theaters on Friday, April 22 and is rated PG-13.