updated 04/21/2011 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 04/22/2011 AT 7:00 AM ET
Water for Elephants’ most compelling star is gorgeous, nails her scenes, and pretty much runs away with the movie – not too shabby for an elephant competing for screen time with two of Hollywood’s biggest names.
Based on Sara Gruen’s enormously popular novel, the movie is ostensibly about the love between two people: former veterinary student Jacob (Robert Pattinson), a stowaway on the Benzini Brothers traveling circus, and Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the show’s headliner. But with sluggish action and a patent lack of chemistry, the two-legged actors just can’t compete with the pachyderm’s charms.
Water (rated PG-13) is, for its faults, beautiful to watch. The actors are gorgeous, of course, and the sets and costumes artfully recreate the wonder of a Depression-era circus. Fact is, it might all be too pretty, missing the grime and grit that added to the book’s sense that all was not right aboard the Benzini Brothers train.