From Philly.com, Carrie Rickey reviews Water for Elephants:
Steamy and sexy with a smack of sadism, the movie is a throwback to old-school Hollywood action/romance. What with its big, lush close-ups of the principals, Rodrigo Prieto’s moody, humidor-brown cinematography, and the life-is-a-circus emotionalism, Waterprovides the basic movie-movie pleasure of beautiful people struggling their way out of ugly situations.…
Witherspoon is lovely and looks like a wholesome Jean Harlow in the period costumes, but the screenplay by Richard LaGravenese doesn’t demand that she do much more than be decorative and anxious and gymnastic. She’s a nimble trick rider and acrobat. It’s not her fault that the 5-foot-1 blond is upstaged by Tai, the 8-foot-8 pachyderm with a stellar personality and a constellation of freckles, who plays Rosie.
In his first major role outside the Twilight franchise, Pattinson is both effective and affecting as the youth who pines to rescue the woman in jeopardy from her abusive spouse. His Jacob is a quick study who learns when to tell the truth and when to exaggerate it.
Waltz (who won a supporting-actor Oscar for Inglourious Basterds) delivers the film’s standout performance as August, the possibly schizophrenic figure who projects a chilling sense of menace and possesses an unexpected sense of humor.