'Water For Elephants': The Reviews Are In!

What do critics think of Robert Pattinson's non-'Twilight' acting?

"Twilight" films are never highly praised by critics. "New Moon" wallows at just a 29 percent approval rating at the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator, and yet that film (like all in the franchise) has gone on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.

Robert Pattinson's latest offering, the romantic drama "Water for Elephants," is similarly seeing mixed reviews thrown its way. And while, again like "Twilight," the film is based on a best-selling novel, "WFE" isn't expected to open with anything like the box-office bang Pattinson's vampire flicks have.

Yet his performance is garnering much critical praise. Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, too, is being lauded for his villainous turn. Reviews have also applauded the film's lush visuals, though they've also criticized it for subpar character development and an attempt to pack too much of the novel's story into the film. For those critiques and more, read on for what the pros are saying about "WFE":

The Story

" 'Water for Elephants' is partly a sawdust love story, partly a survival story. It opens with an old man's reminiscence, as Jacob Jankowski (Hal Holbrook) tells a young circus hand about his own Depression-era adventures under the big top. He didn't join the show out of any romantic impulses about carnival life. The well-planned veterinary career he expected was torpedoed by a family tragedy. And the first train he could hop just happened to be carrying roustabouts, a menagerie, a gorgeous trick rider, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), and her possessive husband, the circus' owner and ringmaster, August (Christoph Waltz). That's where the romance enters in. And the survival drama, too." — Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Performances

"Pattinson and Witherspoon, despite the limits of their earnest and fairly foolish characters, eke out a real spark of romance between them; several slow dances between them crackle with unspoken feelings, and even their lame flirty jokes feel genuine. Lurking over them both like some ghoul of violent circuses past is Waltz's August, essentially Hans Landa in the big top but less fun to be around. Waltz brings shades of honor and even pity to August, but the movie is written in such broad strokes of right and wrong that from the moment August beats Rosie with an iron bar, there's nothing to do but root for his inevitable downfall." — Katey Rich, Cinema Blend

The Visuals

"Visually, the film is a handsome thing. With the help of production designer Jack Fisk ('There Will Be Blood'), filmmaker Francis Lawrence ('I Am Legend') conjures a mostly believable world, circa 1931, of acrobats, sideshow entertainers, clowns and roustabouts down on their luck. You won't ever forget that you're watching a show, but it's a highly watchable show nonetheless." — Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post

The Adaptation

"Mr. Lawrence is so busy awkwardly jamming the novel's minor events together and introducing (before dropping) colorful minor characters who have so little screen time that they barely register, that the movie fails to develop a sense of wonder. ... As a piece of storytelling, the film displays its most disastrous choice when it makes the book's climatic rampage seem perfunctory. This sloppily directed scene, which ends almost as soon as it begins, leaves you feeling cheated out of a necessary cathartic release." — Stephen Holden, The New York Times

The Final Word

" 'Water for Elephants' is one of those big, extravagant-looking romances that you might automatically deem 'conventional' — except for the fact that almost nobody makes big, extravagant-looking romances anymore. That's the elephant in the room that the movie's director, Francis Lawrence, faces head on. Whatever his movie's flaws may be, he's alive to the wonder of spectacle, and he still believes in the old-fashioned idea of movie stars: Those with two legs, and especially those with four." — Stephanie Zacharek, Movieline

Check out everything we've got on "Water for Elephants."

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