Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't Play With [The] Animals: Water For Elephants Movie Trailer Official (HD)

Its the height - or depth, if you prefer, of the Depression. Amid the suicides and bootleg booze and bread lines, there is the circus. And not the "Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of all ages!" family-oriented spectacle of lore (although that's there) but a bawdy, no-holds-barred ride, complete with nude girlie shows, and men deemed no longer useful or plain unlikeable pitched off the circus train between stops - at high speed, of course.

Presiding over this carnage is August (Christoph Waltz), a go-getting charmer in serious conflict with himself. Having acquired the Benzini Bros. Circus from the wreckage of other circuses, is in a fight to the death against  Ringling Bros - the 800-lb gorilla of the business, which also pitches to a more conservative, family values audience (no hoochies). His star attraction - and wife - is Malrena (Reese Witherspoon), who endures his volcanic temper and more sadistic leanings out of a sense of obligation and the fear of returning to Depression-era squalor.

Into this clearly combustible mix jumps (literally) Robert Pattinson, as Jacob, whose promising veterinary career is curtailed when his parents are both killed in the midst of his final exams. He initially earns August's ire for his independent thinking, but that gift soon endears him to both August and Marlena. Add romantic sparks, the threat of closure to the circus, and one massive female elephant named Rosie, and you have a three-ring act worthy of the biggest big top.

Veteran music video director Francis Lawrence proves a more than worthy cinematic ringmaster, whether handling the animal scenes, or the more pivotal human-human interactions. And he coaxes some pretty good performances from his actors. Even with the climactic instalment in the series yet to hit screens, Pattinson leaves his Twilight era behind him; Witherspoon is in full command of her role, showing both vulnerability and imperiousness in proper measure.

And then, there is Waltz. Driven by competing obsessions, August can barely keep his demons at bay for too long. While he doesn't quite approach the level of his Oscar-winning turn in Inglorious Basterds, he surely redeems himself from the horrible overacting in The Green Hornet.

Water for Elephants only flaw is that emotionally, it peaks a bit too early. The high point, where August starling details his knowledge of the liaison between his wife and the young vet  - brilliantly realized - is followed by a Hollywood-type sequence of violence, revenge and tragedy.

Nevertheless, this novel adaptation is head-and-shoulders above this year's studio releases to date. It speaks to a lot of issues without excess sentiment or frivolity. And who can resist an elephant going down on its forelegs? Step right up!

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