"Water for Elephants" gives off an air of self-satisfaction, and you can see why. What film wouldn't be pleased with having a No. 1 bestseller as source material, an unapologetically picturesque world for its setting and major players such asReese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and a superb Christoph Waltz as its stars. What's not to like?
There is quite a bit to enjoy in a film that certainly qualifies as broad-based popular entertainment. But because the ingredients are so promising, there hangs over this serviceable project the wish that it had turned out better still. Director Francis Lawrence, who works in music videos as well as features, has an unmistakable gift for bravura spectacle, but the absence of convincing romantic chemistry means that the emotional connection that should be this film's birthright is not really there.
That spectacle comes courtesy of the 1931 Benzini Bros. circus setting of Sara Gruen's epic romance about a man, a woman and a 9,000-pound elephant. The Benzini troupe bills itself grandly, but the reality, as one of Gruen's characters says, is that "it's probably not even the fiftieth most spectacular show on earth."
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