Water For Elephants (2011, Francis Lawrence)

Robert Patterson’s Polish immigrant parents die “at the very moment his final exam begins. His professors couldn’t have waited a mere two hours to tell him the bad news, thus allowing him to graduate? Not in a story this devoted to broad strokes and contrived barriers.” (AV Club)

So RP, looking remarkably more like a real person with normal hair than he does in those Twilight trailers, hops a train and joins the circus, meets ringmaster Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, barely recognized him until he started talking with his bad-guy voice, and come to think of it, he should participate in a bad-guy voice-off contest with John Malkovich) with beautiful performing wife Reese Witherspoon (highlight of the movie was that my dream of having someone grab Witherspoon by her pointy chin was finally realized).

Anyway, Robert and Reese fall for each other but Waltz is crazy jealous and likes to murder his workers and hurt the poor, Polish-speaking elephant who comes along halfway through the movie and was the reason I agreed to go see it. Reese’s elephant tricks were nifty indeed, but maybe didn’t make up for all the dour, overwrought period drama surrounding them.

And look, Ken Foree of From Beyond plays one of Waltz’s enforcers – but not the one who’s so evil that he has to be killed off-camera at the end. Also, the whole movie is narrated by Hal Holbrook to Mark Brendanawicz. And it’s the second movie I’ve seen so far this year where somebody runs away from a circus after a traumatic event, only to return just as the circus is on the verge of failing. Rivette’s film had more clown acts and tightrope walking, and therefore wins. From the director of I Am Legend and Constantine, screenwriter of Fisher King and Freedom Writers and DP of 25th Hour and Brokeback Mountain.