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Water for Elephants (2011)



Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 189
Fresh: 114 | Rotten: 75

It's a tale tastefully told and beautifully filmed, but Water for Elephants suffers from a pronounced lack of chemistry between its leads.


Average Rating: 6/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 23

It's a tale tastefully told and beautifully filmed, but Water for Elephants suffers from a pronounced lack of chemistry between its leads.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 67,404

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on the acclaimed bestseller, Water for Elephants presents an unexpected romance in a uniquely compelling setting. Veterinary school student Jacob meets and falls in love with Marlena, a star performer in a circus of a bygone era. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Against all odds -- including the wrath of Marlena's charismatic but dangerous husband, August -- Jacob and Marlena find lifelong love. (c) Fox



Richard LaGravenese

Nov 1, 2011


20th Century Fox - Official Site External Icon

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Latest News on Water for Elephants

April 22, 2011:
Critics Consensus: Water for Elephants Is A Little Soapy
This week at the movies we've got a big-top romance (Water for Elephants, starring Reese Witherspoon...
April 22, 2011:
Total Recall: Reese Witherspoon's Best Movies
She's one of the highest-paid stars in Hollywood, with nearly 30 films to her credit and a lifetime...


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All Critics (190) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (114) | Rotten (75) | DVD (3)

Supporting characters are too hastily sketched in, serving only to further the unsmooth course of true love.

October 7, 2011 Full Review Source: TheWrap
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Water for Elephants may not be the best show on earth, but it's still quite a show.

May 6, 2011 Full Review Source: | Comments (2)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

'Water for Elephants' has charm, and this more grown up role suits Pattinson more than the histrionics of last year's 'Remember Me'.

May 3, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie rather embarrassingly sells chastity in the midst of what feels like a lawless situation. It's handsomely mounted but timid.

May 2, 2011 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The great intangible of chemistry isn't present, making Water for Elephants seem longer and slower than one might hope.

April 23, 2011 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Isn't it OK, once in a while, just to enjoy the spectacle of two beautiful people kissing in a train car in the shadow of an elephant?

April 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Slate | Comments (4)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This movie doesn't have half the imagination of even the most subpar circus and, all told, I think it even has fewer elephants.

June 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

The leads lack chemistry and the movie has a very cookie-cutter love story that was far too predictable.

April 21, 2013 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

Whatever romance Gruen summoned forth from this rough and tumble world of show people living by their own laws in a traveling, self-contained world of poverty and cruelty, director Francis Lawrence has hacked and ground it off.

January 11, 2013 Full Review Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

"Water for Elephants" is a surprisingly good film that once again shows that first impressions aren't everything.

September 20, 2012 Full Review Source:

Effectively hits the right emotional beats with crucially the right amount of restraint.

January 30, 2012 Full Review Source:

I love it when a film surprises me.

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

The film is certainly striking to look at but the story is hackneyed with too much exposition

December 13, 2011 Full Review Source: The Baltic Times

It plays like a book with half of its pages ripped out. It moves quickly enough, but it's never convincing and the actors never get much to chew on. The end result isn't really a 'whirlwind' romance; it's more like a tumbleweed.

November 16, 2011 Full Review Source:

The real appeal of this movie is the epic backdrop of the 1930s-era train circus. This is where the special effects and costuming budget went.

November 13, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Pattinson and Witherspoon may be the movie's heart, but Christoph Waltz provides the hydropower that drives Water For Elephants to its explosive, destructive conclusion.

September 9, 2011 Full Review Source: American Profile
American Profile

All the eye candy of the circus, along with one-dimensional characters and an unfulfilling storyline.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

This is sweet, but it's pure candyfloss.

July 14, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

There's no doubting the luscious detail and feel for the period, but the love triangle that inevitable kicks in is a little too rote, even for those in a forgiving mood.

June 16, 2011 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

It's a gorgeous film to look at, but far too cliched and limitedly-acted to be much better than average.

June 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

This is the kind of old-fashioned sweeping romance that would have played the bottom half of a double-bill in the 1940.

June 3, 2011 Full Review Source:

Makes a case as a worthy adaptation of a good novel but the jury is still out on whether Mr. Pattinson can be more than a brooding vampire.

May 31, 2011 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

Water for Elephants has a distinctly daytime movie feel to it, shot in soft, golden tones with an unchallenging plot.

May 19, 2011 Full Review Source: The Mercury
The Mercury

It's a fast-paced adventure tale like they used to make 'em, a slice of old-fashioned Hollywood that traverses tragedy, romance and exotic travel.

May 16, 2011 Full Review Source:

Circuses have thankfully changed a lot since 1931 (when this is predominantly set) but it's a fascinating time and place to visit and a lot of the appeal of Water For Elephants comes from its setting.

May 14, 2011 Full Review Source: The Standard | Comment (1)
The Standard

Audience Reviews for Water for Elephants

On the face of it I can't say I was that thrilled about watching a romantic film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson about a guy who runs away to the Circus and falls in love with the Ringleaders Wife. I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, so the romance wasn't that great I didn't think and anyone could have played the two leading roles, Witherspoon and Pattinson did a fine job but certainly wouldn't have been my first choices. However, Christoph Waltz was brilliant as the villain with a little bit more depth than most. Francis Lawrence's direction is the big star though, the special effects, props and overall look of the film is as spectacular as it should be. Although the characters may not be the most interesting, there is enough intrigue to keep one entertained throughout. Plus, it's got a really lovely old Elephant in it and if she doesn't warm your heart nothing will.
September 12, 2014

Super Reviewer

I see Jacob's (Robert Pattinson) tale is one of tragedy, deceit, illusion, abuse (animal, spousal and workplace), drunkenness, murder and secret love. Incidents of nastiness and brutality vie with attempts to evoke the magic of the circus, but these have a desperate and unconvincing mood.
While young boys of a bygone age may have dreamed or orgies with hoochie-coochie dancers and drunken dwarfs, such outbursts of colourful fun are curiously joyless - neither Federico Fellini's surreal nor C.B. DeMille's exuberant vision of Circus. Equally, the romance between young Jacob and showgirl Marlena feels forced. Thank heavens, then, that the climactic catastrophe is appropriately dreadful.
Reese Witherspoon, it is said, loved the book. One suspects it was the costumes she loved best, the pink sequins, marabou feathers and bias-cut frocks nicely set off by the Jean Harlow hair.
For a dying circus whose unpaid roustabouts and moth-eaten animals are starving, she's almost too glamorous, holding court with a champagne glass in a handsomely appointed railway carriage boudoir.
Pattinson is, in his quiet, the sympathetic central character because his ardent, young Jacob is the one commencing a big life journey.
Most memorable, though, is Christoph Waltz's terrifyingly unpredictable August. Horribly fascinating, he is charming and charismatic one moment, and savagely sadistic the next.
February 17, 2013
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

I LOVED the book and I figured that the movie wasn't going to live up to it, and I was right so it wasn't a major letdown. The book was so intense, throughout the entire thing and I could not put it down. I wanted the movie to be just as intense but it really wasn't. I didn't care about what happened to the characters in the movie as much as I cared about the characters in the book.
January 21, 2013

Super Reviewer

very entertaining, and actually well executed for what it was. the story itself was just an old story in new clothes, so it failed to be overly compelling, but it was a solid date movie.
August 8, 2012
danny d

Super Reviewer

    1. August: The world runs on tricks, plays but it's havin' a true talent, a gift born within somethin' no degree can give you, you have such talent.
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (14 months ago)
    1. Circus Performer: The boss don't like you drinkin' Pinoqachole durin' the show. The lady don't like it either.
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (14 months ago)
    1. August: The world runs on tricks, everyone plays but it's having a true talent, a gift born within something no degree can give you, you have such talent.
    – Submitted by Cathy D (2 years ago)
    1. Charlie: We'll have you in the record books. Oldest man to run away to the circus.
    2. Old Jacob: I'm not running away...I'm coming home.
    – Submitted by Jillian L (2 years ago)
    1. Marlena: Where were you when I was seventeen?
    – Submitted by Rocío R (2 years ago)
    1. Jacob: I'm not runnin' away. I'm comin' home.
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (2 years ago)
View all quotes (13)

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Foreign Titles

  • Wasser für die Elefanten (DE)
  • De l'eau pour les éléphants (FR)
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