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water for elephants

I loved this movie! How’s that for a short review? Old-fashioned corny schmaltz like this doesn’t appeal to that many people these days, but I enjoyed this one ‘way out of all my expectations. It’s about a young man who runs away to (accidentally) join the circus in that wonderful year of 1931. His family suffers a great tragedy, he leaves veterinary school under a cloud, hops a freight, realizes it’s a circus train and decides to stay. Robert Pattinson arrives at true leading man status in this film, and Reese Witherspoon as the circus owner’s wife is fine, but as the circus owner we have Christoph (Inglourious Basterds) Waltz who will surely be nominated for another Best Supporting Actor award next year – he’s that good in this. In fact, with “Water For Elephants” he joins that most rarified and precious club:  best all-time movie villains. Waltz is beyond great in this movie – he’s gleeful, scary, merry, mad and very gay (original definition) in his total badness. Legendary actors like Vincent Price, Claude Rains, Lionel Atwill and George Zucco come to mind. Wow, can Waltz turn on the evil when he wants to!

Anyway, there’s this low-budget circus, traveling from tank-town to whistlestop back during the depression, needing a vet to keep the overworked animals healthy enough to perform. There are just about every well-worn circus bit/problem/disaster you can imagine thrown in to the mix, a beautiful and delightful elephant, backstage life amongst the performers, and the requisite romance between the leads. All very colorful thanks to the beautiful set decoration and photography on display.

CAUTION:  animal lovers will have problems with a few scenes in this – animals weren’t handled way back when the way they are today, and you’ll see some very strong stuff here. Yes, it’s a movie and the ASPCA was on hand at all times – no animals were harmed, but it’s rough.

“Water For Elephants” – 3 stars (3.5 if you love circus, train and animal movies, like me)

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