A decorous, respectable adaptation of Sara Gruen’s engaging best-seller, Water for Elephants would have come more excitingly alive with stronger doses of Depression-era grit and sexual spunk. The 1931 circus setting and a love triangle involving three exceedingly attractive people provides a constant wash of scenic pleasure and the film’s fidelity to its source will receive nodding approval from the book’s many fans, which should result in solid, if unspectacular commercial results for this Fox release. But the vital spark that would have made the drama truly compelling on the screen is missing.
Films about traveling circuses, and the often daring and dodgy people who worked in them, used to be relatively commonplace in American movies and it could be that the novelty of seeing such a troupe, traveling from one town to another on a train with dozens of performers, workers and lots of animals in tow, might be enough to captivate a fair share of people today, just as Gruen’s 2006 novel did.
Full story: “Water for Elephants” movie review