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"Water for Elephants" movie reviews

"Water for Elephants" seems to be drawing less love as a movie than it did as a book.

By / April 22, 2011

Some film critics have complained about a lack of requisite chemistry between romantic leads Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

David James /Twentieth Century Fox

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How is the movie version of mega-bestselling novel "Water for Elephants" faring? If you look to the movie critics, the answer is: "So far not so good."

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" 'Water for Elephants' is a three-ring bore," is the headline on Associated Press reviewer David Germain's piece about the movie. "Witherspoon and Pattinson are a three-ring snooze-fest together, bringing little passion to a love story supposedly so fiery, it blows the roof off the big top," writes Germain.

According to him, "The movie's lone star attraction is Christoph Waltz."

Several critics noted a lack of the requisite chemistry between romantic leads Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

According to Tom Charity, writing for CNN, "there's minimal spark between [Pattinson] and Witherspoon. They seem more besotted with the elephant in the room than with each other. Which is natural enough, I guess, but makes this handsome but rather stagnant movie more of an indulgent wallow than a genuine tearjerker."

Monitor movie critic Peter Rainer also noted a lack of zip in the movie. ("The film has a pleasing retro-ness that often mitigates the dullness," he writes, giving "Water for Elephants" an overall grade of "B.") But like Charity Rainer also felt compelled to pay tribute to Rosie, the scene-stealing pachyderm who some are calling the real star of the show. "The best film’s best performance ... comes from Rosie the elephant," says Rainer. "She has expert timing, knows how to listen to the other actors, wails convincingly, and uses her trunk with aplomb."

Certainly, the novel "Water for Elephants" fared better with book critics when it first came out in 2006. Although The Cleveland Plain Dealer compared it to "an exaggerated, Saturday-morning cartoon" and The New York Times complained that author Sara "Gruen's prose is merely serviceable," a critic for The Chicago Tribune praised a narrative "so compelling, so detailed and vivid, that I couldn't bear to be torn away from it for a single minute" and The Denver Post called the book "a rich surprise, a delightful gem springing from a fascinating footnote to history that absolutely deserved to be mined."

The book "Water for Elephants" spent 128 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has sold 4.5 million copies to date. Its many fans may well want to see the movie regardless of the critics' commentary.

The novel "Water for Elephants" also has a unique distinction in the book world. It is the most commercially successful and certainly the best known book ever to come from National Write a Novel Month. Author Gruen originally wrote the novel as a NaNoWriMo participant.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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