It’s the Great Depression, and young veterinarian student Jacob (Pattinson) finds himself homeless and career-less after his parents are killed in a car accident, so he does what any boy would do: he joins the circus. Using his medical skills, he keeps an eye on the strapped-for-cash circus’s animals, working for tyrannical ringmaster August (Waltz) and making googly-eyes at August’s wife, acrobatic star Marlena (Witherspoon). Jacob and Marlena bond over the circus’s latest acquisition, an elephant named Rosie, but with enraged August waving his whip around at every available opportunity, it’s obvious it’s all going to end in tears.
While this period romance, based on the novel by Sara Gruen, is a ‘grown-up’ film, it’s clearly aimed at Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson’s fans, be they 14 or 40. They’ll be pleased to see their hero actually smiling for once (and looking rosy-cheeked rather than ashen) and falling for a girl whose not a brooding, pouty teen for a change. Both he and Witherspoon have nice chemistry, too, but in this sweet but forgettable melodrama the real acting plaudits should go to adorable elephant Rosie, who steals every scene.
Is Water For Elephants suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Younger viewers may be upset by some scenes of animal cruelty (including Rosie being cut with a prod) and a scene in which August attacks Marlena.