Water for Elephants (Blu-ray)
When I read the novel WATER FOR ELEPHANTS I was instantly in love. A sparkling circus with the backdrop of the depression mixed with a complicated romance and gut wrenching emotion – I knew this book would make a brilliant motion picture. Upon hearing the news that this beloved book was hitting the silver screen, I was delighted and couldn’t wait for my chance at seeing the black and white type face come to life. What I got was a watered down version of a great book.
It is tough to pinpoint exactly where the film went wrong. Understanding that books and movies are a different medium I know that not every moment will be the same, but I thought that the film would be able to create a magical world and we’d be able to see the conflict between Jacob (Robert Pattinson), his love interest Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) and her husband, August (Christoph Waltz). The thing that made the film frustrating was it was so close to hitting the mark.
The trailers showed promise and the cast seemed perfect. Who better to play an enigmatic bi-polar schizophrenic in charge of a failing circus than the fantastic Christoph Waltz? But we only saw a small portion of crazy from the power hungry Ringmaster. Why did director, Francis Lawrence underutilize the talent of Mr. Waltz? We saw the evil side when he attacked Rosie the Elephant so why hold back on the mood swings? Did he feel like he’d be recreating the evil character from INGLORIOUS BASTARDS? If that was the case, Lawrence should have opted for a different mode of assaulting Marlena than strangulation as previously seen in BASTARDS (when Waltz strangled Diane Kruger’s character).
The All-American girl next door, Reese Witherspoon didn’t sell her love or feelings for Pattinson’s Jacob at all. She half fulfilled the part of Marlena that when she said “I love you” I about fell off the couch with surprise and I was familiar with the storyline! Sure she did her part of circus performer well and had amazing costuming and wardrobe, she just failed to deliver anything great.
Surprisingly, Robert Pattinson’s performance was decent. Not being a huge fan of the TWILIGHT star, it was hard for me to give him a chance. He did force some of his delivery when trying to show how much he cared for the animals and the chemistry between Pattinson and Witherspoon was luke warm at best. But he did have a bit of the old Cedric Diggory charm shine through a few times in the picture.
I guess the only part of the film that I really enjoyed was the train, circus life and Hal Holbrook as present day Jacob. The filmmakers did a nice job creating the atmosphere of a circus and I liked seeing all the compartments within the train. Hal Holbrook truly put his heart into his performance and gave me hope that the film was going to be great. What talent!
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is a scenario where I recommend you watch the movie before reading the book so you are not let down with the movie. But, you still might be let down… so just read the book and watch the trailer and you’re set.
Video (2.40:1): The visuals were perfect and a huge part of the storytelling.
Audio (DTS – HD Master Audio 5.1): Audio was great, you could hear the sounds of the train and all the circus animals.
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard Lagravenese : A typical movie commentary from the director and screenwriter sharing insight to the assorted scenes, etc.
Raising the Tent (15:24): An interesting look at all the details that went into creating a 1930s circus. Highlights of the research that went into constructing the Benzini Bros Circus and costumes.
Secrets of the Big Top (12:13): A look into the history of the American circus. Lots of facts and fun tidbits.
The Star Attraction (9:12): A fun look at the elephant who played Rosie. This feature makes me want a pet elephant.
The Traveling Show – Page to Screen (9:14): WATER FOR ELEPHANTS author Sara Gruen shares her inspiration for writing the novel and what it was like to see her book become a film. All of the actors chime in on their reaction to reading the book and wanting to be involved with the movie.
Robert Pattinson Spotlight (3:58): Lots of praise for Mr. Pattinson from the filmmakers.
Working Without A Net: The Visual Effects of Water for Elephants (22:37): This is one of the most unique special features I have seen. We are treated to the score of the film and assorted scenes where visual effects were used. Definitely recommend this feature.
Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon (2:35): We see the All-American Girl do all her own stunts with the horses and elephant and learn about her own circus training.