Water For Elephants (2011) 
Blu-ray Romantic Drama
Written by Noah Fleming   
Friday, 04 November 2011

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“Water For Elephants” is a film based on the best selling novel of the same title.  About the same time as hearing about the book, I heard about the movie release in just a few short weeks.  The two were seemingly developed in tandem.  But doesn’t seem the case with Hollywood?  Movies are almost completed before real events unfold.  It’s spooky.

The film was only moderately successful at the box office.  It falls into the category of “film not as good as the book,” something I would place all the Harry Potter films in, but I digress.  The film is quite decent in the end, but the journey it takes along the way is hit or miss.

The opening of the film is quick, interesting and to the point.  Then there is a huge lull in the middle of the film just to get to the climatic third act.  The film could have easily been cut down to a runtime far less than its current two hours.  And its current two hours feels more like three.

I appreciate the filmmakers’ storytelling, but much of the second act is redundant.  Redundancy is good at times, but only if it escalates the audiences’ emotional journey.  In the case of this film, the redundancy does no such thing.  The forbidden romance between Jacob (Pattinson) and Marlena (Witherspoon) is palpable but jumps from infancy to full blown, despite the numerous circles back to the relationship made in the film.  The bitter and cruel nature of August (Waltz) is brutal from the start and therefore doesn’t provide the character with any room for growth.

The film would have worked much better in a more concise format.  That being said, the film is a successful romantic drama.  There is chemistry, drama and heartache.  When those moments do arise in the film, it can be quite striking.  But the other elements of the film act as filler.

Water shortcomings the film may have in comparison with the book, itdoes have one amazing video transfer.  The original production value ofthe film is retained in all its glory.  The story takes place in 1931and as a memoir, thus the image takes on a golden hue.  Colors areastoundingly vibrant in a realistic way.  Details are extraordinary. The texture and close up detail present on each of the animals in thecircus is amazing.  The texture of Rosie’s hairs and trunk are sorealistic as to be almost 3D in nature.  There does not appear to be anymajor digital artifacting.  The visual effects within the film areseamlessly integrated, grounding the film in its romantic drama roots. There is perhaps some digital noise reduction, but the film grain isintact and provides even more filmic texture.  The only complaint I havewith the transfer is the minor crushing in the black levels.  Duringthe opening sequence in which Jacob boards the train at night, the blacklevels swallow all but the kitchen sink.  While it mostly seemsaccurate to the original intent, there is too much going on in thedarkness that is lost to the human eye.  Aside from that, this is aterrific transfer from Fox.

The audio quality nicely supplements that of the video.  The surroundusage in the film is more than many would expect for the genre.  Thecircus animals and crowd come alive in the rear channels, providing anice enveloping experience.  Ambience in the rear channels providesconsistent rear speaker activity even in the softest sequences. Dialogue is primarily anchored to the center channel and is generallycrisp and clean.  There are few soft moments that result in less thandesirable intelligibility.  However, in those cases it is fairly easy todiscern what was supposed to be said.  The dynamic range more expansivethan the majority of romantic dramas.  The LFE channel is a bit spotty,lacking in the ultimate punch factor when it comes to the elephant. Nevertheless, the audio is accurate to the source material and providesan engaging audio experience.

“Water For Elephants” comes in a two-disc package.  There is a Blu-raywith the special features and then a separate Digital Copy Only disc ofthe film.  The special features are not elaborate but they provide somenice insight into the production.

“Secrets Of The Big Top” provides a history of the circus.  “Raising TheTent” is a production design featurette.  “Robert Pattinson Spotlight”highlights the actor.  Likewise, “Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon”delves into her performance.  “The Star Attraction” covers the realelephant that was used to portray Rosie.  “Working Without A Net: TheVisual Effects of ‘Water For Elephants” is a nice visual effects piecethat uses music and compositing to show visual effects sequences.  Youwill not find interviews in this piece.  “The Traveling Show: Page ToScreen” is a typical book to film piece with the author.  Lastly thereis an Audio Commentary with the director and writer as well as atrailer.

“Water For Elephants” is not going to be a timeless classic, but it doesoffer a heartwarming story despite the amount of suffering endured. The audio and video qualities provide for an all around nice Blu-rayrelease.  I recommend at least giving this one a rent.
Studio 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG-13
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider, Hal Holbrook
Director Francis Lawrence
Film Release Year 2011
Release Year 2011
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 2 hrs.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • Spanish
Special Features Director & Writer Audio Commentary; “Raising The Tent”; “The Star Attraction”; “Secrets Of The Big Top”; “Robert Pattinson Spotlight”; “Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon”; “Working Without A Net: The Visual Effects Of ‘Water For Elephants’”; “The Traveling Show: Page To Screen”; Trailer; Digital Copy
Forum Link http://www.avrev.com/forum
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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