Water for Elephants

Rated 3.0

In the Great Depression year of 1931, multiple misfortunes send young Jacob (Robert Pattinson) out on the road. He stumbles into a job with a scruffy traveling circus, where he falls in love with the star bareback rider (Reese Witherspoon), who is also the wife of the maniacal circus boss (Christoph Waltz), and becomes the protector of the show’s newly acquired elephant. Much of that does not bode well for Jacob or for anyone else, but in this film version of Sara Gruen’s bestseller everything is obvious and yet almost nothing is quite what it seems. It’s a B-movie story goosed up to look like a major drama with larger-than-life characters. As a circus story and period piece, it can’t help but be fascinating at least part of the time, but very little of the characters’ sketchy sound and fury makes any kind of lasting impression. Waltz is a crafty actor made to look like a stock villain. Pattinson’s mixture of moody gloom and goofy innocence makes even less sense. Witherspoon serves the story very well in iconic terms, but gets no chance to make the character fully dimensional. Hal Holbrook and Paul Schneider are put to no really significant use in the modern-day scenes that frame the retrospective narrative. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13