Log in

Water for Elephants (Blu-ray Review)

28 Oct, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Street 11/1/11
Box Office $58.7 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13’ for moments of intense violence and sexual content.
Stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz.

Running away to join the circus is an old-timey fantasy that justly makes for a mesmerizing film, as is the case with Water for Elephants. Cornell veterinary student Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) is taking his final exam when he’s informed his parents have died, leaving him without a family or a home.

Jacob’s life is forever changed when he unwittingly hops a train carrying the traveling Benzini Bros. Circus. Water for Elephants begins with an elderly Jacob (Hal Holbrook) striking up a conversation with a man who’s curious about the infamous (and purely fictional) 1931 Benzini circus disaster. The rest of the story is told through a flashback, a vivid recollection of Jacob’s whirlwind flirtation with circus life, which isn’t so glamorous.

Eager to earn his keep, Jacob performs odd jobs, until his veterinary prowess is put to the test with an injured horse, a co-star in the bombshell Marlena Rosenbluth’s (Reese Witherspoon) act. Jacob’s attraction to Marlena is instantaneous, just as we’re captivated by her charm.

Running the show is Marlena’s husband, circus ringleader August (Christoph Waltz). He’s a wretched, volatile man who works his performers (human and animal) to exhaustion, and releases his frustrations by beating Marlena and Rosie the elephant (a majestic pachyderm who becomes the show’s main attraction). Inevitably, Jacob and Marlena become allies and lovers, and endeavor for a life together outside the Benzini Bros. big top.

Water for Elephants is visually stunning, thanks to flawless costuming and exceptional cinematography. In an instant, we’re transported into 1931, our eyes transfixed on the illusions and drama that unfold, hoping it’ll never end.

“The Traveling Show — Page to Screen” featurette is a telling vignette about Sara Gruen’s book being adapted into the film. Also included are spotlights on Pattinson and Witherspoon (both standouts with great on-screen chemistry).

Add Comment