Established May 2010.

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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz

Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon star in this adaptation based on the extremely popular book by Sara Gruen. Jacob Jankowski (Holbrook) is found wandering around on the circus grounds confused and disoriented. He comes to find out he missed the spectacular. He escaped from the senior home he was staying at and missed the greatest show on earth. As he waits in the offices with one of the workers, he opens up about the time he joined the circus and the downfall of the great Benzini Bros. Spectacular. The story flashes back to a young Jacob (Pattinson) jumping a train late at night. He is desperate to escape from the life he had after his parents were killed in a car crash. He instantly realizes it is by no means an empty train car. Come morning, the trains stops and Jacob discovers he has landed on a circus train. Being the former veterinarian student that he was, he takes a job as the care giver after caring for a horse with laminitis. August (Waltz) is the circus director and head animal trainer. He has his prize animal performers and milks them for every performance they can give no matter how sick and diseased they are. He is married to Marlena (Witherspoon) even though their marriage is less than healthy. Marlena is the beautiful blonde performer who rides the elephants and horses. Jacob struggles with his growing feelings for Marlena and tries to the give the animals proper care when August could care less about either of those two things.

I did not really care for the book, but I thought the movie might be able to deliver the story for me. Maybe the right cast and performances could make me care about the characters that I was not getting from the book. Unfortunately, I was still left unsatisfied. The movie is so terribly miscast. Robert Pattison does his best at not being his Twilight character, but is not a strong enough actor to pull off the romance suggested by this story. He also seems too young to be paired with Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon can be great actress with the right material. With a bad wig and a bad script, she just struggles here. The pair has zero chemistry together. Witherspoon also seems too young to be with Christoph Waltz. Maybe that is the point with that troubled couple, I don’t know. Back to the script, it feels so flat and unmotivated that it leaves the actors with very two-dimensional characters. Waltz is left playing “the villain”. We saw him do that so well in Inglourious Basterds, that here it just feels forced. The dialogue also leaves the relationship between Marlena and Jacob very boring without passion or drive. The elder Jacob appears at the beginning and end without narrating the whole movie. You don’t even see him during the movie talking to the employer. Without this through line, you don’t feel the connection that the tragedy and Marlena had on the rest of his life. What could have been an interesting love story set against the dark gritty circus life, now feels flat, lifeless, and boring.

RATING: * (1 out of 4 stars)

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