So, back to the movie. I think we all know that it didn't get the greatest reviews. When it comes to critics, and even audience reviews, I take them into consideration, but I rely on my own opinion. After all, just because Roger Ebert says it's good, that doesn't make it good, and just because that dude over there didn't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.
So what is it to me?
Let's start with the book. If you haven't read the book, you'll probably like this more than someone who has, like me. Because if you've read the book, you'll see all the places that they got it wrong. This movie could have been a lot better for more than one reason. For one, Uncle Al should have been in it. They could have stayed more faithful to the book in other ways. There were some plot points that they arrived at by different means than they originally did. And while they were doing that, they lost the spirit of the book. I realize that this is a two-hour film, and you can't have everything in it. Changes must be made to accommodate a film adaptation. But it would have been much better if they hadn't cut so many corners and altered events.
That isn't the only issue. Let's talk about the cast.
I was surprised by Reese Witherspoon. In a good way. I like her a lot as an actress, but I thought she was miscast as Marlena. And, in a sense, she is. Marlena is supposed to be twenty-one with light brown hair, and instead we got Reese Witherspoon, thirty-five years old with a platinum blonde wig stuck on her head. While I still think they could have hired a younger actress for the part, I was actually happy with Reese. I felt she filled the role well.
Christoph Waltz was, of course, the best out of everyone. Isn't it terrible when the villain is your favorite character? I mean I wasn't rooting for him, but he's the one you watch, the one who has you glued, the one who makes you want to marry a short dude as long as he has enough personality.
Um...right. It's not a crush, I swear.
On to Robert Pattinson. Unfortunately, he didn't impress me. In fact, he was the weak link. I know, I know, you hate me for saying it. But I can't lie and say I thought he did a good job when I don't. He spent a good part of the film either smiling like a dumbass or staring like a dumbass. When he's not doing that, he's still not showing much in the way of acting chops. There's also something about his American accent that I find wrong. Having said all this, if you're a big Robert Pattinson fan and think he's the shit and can do no wrong, then you'll love him in this.
There's also the lack of chemistry between him and Reese. It's not either of their faults, it just is. That doesn't mean they're a complete disaster as an onscreen couple, but they're not burning up the room with their sizzling sexual chemistry, either. The thing is, I thought the critics might be wrong about the whole chemistry thing. They weren't. Too bad.
Hal Holbrook plays old Jacob, and he's barely in it. They should have at least made him the lead narrator instead of Robert Pattinson, who really is not compelling as a voice.
I don't mean to make this sound like a terrible movie, because it's not. Certain scenes, like the ending with the disaster, were quite good. The scenery and the animals are beautiful. Some of the shots, especially when Marlena is doing her bit, gave me a glimpse of what this could have been. It's a nice setting, a nice story, and at times it's moving and effective.
As a whole, Water For Elephants is an okay movie, but not great. I would have loved to see it reach its full potential. As it is, the book is better.
My grade: C+