As soon as you realize that the ringmaster barking out his greatest-show-on-earth spiel under the big-top tent is none other than Christoph Waltz, of all people, you begin to worry. You worry for Robert Pattinson. Waltz, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the silky SS officer in Inglourious Basterds, is an actor of juicy resources–he operates expertly in an area just this side of hambone–and he commands our attention. Pattinson, on the other hand, despite the stardom he has attained in the Twilight movies, is among the least commanding of performers–in some of the films he’s made outside of the sheltering Twilight umbrella, he fades from memory even as you’re watching him.
And so, sure enough, in Water for Elephants, a circus picture of which Pattinson is nominally the star, every time Waltz enters a scene, deploying his skittery intelligence and unsettling leer, Pattinson is reduced to the role of unhappy observer at an acting master class.
It’s not a good movie, but it’s not an especially awful one, either. It’s just long and dull. (When was the last time a story about running away with a circus gunned anybody’s engine?) The picture was adapted from a book by Sara Gruen–one of those worldwide bestsellers that nobody you know seems to have read. The filmmakers–director Francis Lawrence, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (who shot Brokeback Mountain and Biutiful)–have done what they can with the material, but the movie feels like a forced march.
Read the full review at Reason.