Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Water for Elephants"

So... Titanic. The ultimate love story, of two lovers who are starcrossed and have to find ways to work around the jealous fiancee of the girl.

It's a tale that ends up getting retold countless times.

So when we do it with circus animals?

Well... you get today's movie.

Water for Elephants

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) is a drop-out from an ivy league vet school who drops out after the deaths of both of his parents. While walking to Albany, he ends up hitching on the train of the Benzini Brothers, run by August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz), where he ends up getting a job as the local vet. While there, he falls in love with August's wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), and things get crazy when August starts to suspect something is going on between Jacob and Marlena as the two of them make his circus more famous with the addition of a pachiderm acquired by August.

And it gets... middling from there.

There's one thing that many romance movies have to get right, and it is the chemistry between the two leads. And I suppose the biggest fault with this movie is that Pattinson and Witherspoon just don't have any form of chemistry. Their love story, therefore, doesn't really seem believable in any sense of the word. So it left me sitting there with mixed feelings about everything that was happening since a large portion of the third act hinges so much on us believing that they are actually in love.

The screenplay too is also probably at fault. Yes, it's romantic, but it feels too melodramatic for us to get any real sense of emotion from what is happening around the characters. Of course, Pattinson's stone-face delivery of near-on every line doesn't help, but with a script as tired as this it gets a little tough to care about the characters. (And no, I was not seeing Edward Cullen every time the camera focused on Pattinson: that at least says something.)

Fortunately for us, Christoph Waltz saves the movie. The screenplay doesn't give him that much to do, but he manages to pull off a charming villain act when the movie actually feels like making him charming. He electrifies the screen whenever he is present, and his line deliveries keep the entire enterprise from becoming too boring. It also helps that the romance isn't really touched on all that much throughout the first two acts of the movie, and focuses more on Jacob and August's reaction. Yeah, it's a little over the top, but we can understand why Jacob would be afraid of and for his friend and why August would feel absolutely betrayed. We get that feeling, and so some of the events that follow really do have some emotional impact.

So... it's middling. Water for Elephants has the misfortune of giving us two romantic leads who don't have that much chemistry, but a few wise decisions on how to handle Waltz's character is what ultimately renders the whole movie watchable and actually capable of some emotional impact. Would I recommend it? Eh... depends on what your cup of tea is, really. But if you're into this kind of melodrama? Sure, I'd tell you to go see it.


If you want to go see it, see it. If you don't want to go see it, don't.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

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