'Water For Elephants': What the Critics Are Saying

Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The movie, helmed by Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, opens Friday.

Francis Lawrence's adaptation of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants (starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz) opens this Friday.

See what the critics have to say about the 1930's tale of a boy who accidentally joins the circus. 

The Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy writes that while the film will please fans of the best-selling novel, "it lacks the vital spark that would have made the drama truly compelling on the screen."

But, McCarthy says Pattinson's diehard Twilight fans won't be disappointed. "Looking 300 per cent better than he did in his last non-Twilight outing, Remember Me, Pattinson is entirely convincing as Jacob, a Cornell veterinary school student who escapes from the ruin provoked by his parents' untimely death by almost inadvertently joining the circus."

TIME's Richard Corliss, however, wasn't impressed. "Any grand, poignant or even plausible elements in Gruen's novel get reduced to a standard tale of domestic and institutional sadism," he writes. "(Why does August so viciously abuse the elephant he's just bought to be his star attraction? Because, prod-prod, that's how he treats females.) The role seems to exist only to let Waltz, an Oscar winner as the Nazi sleuth in Inglourious Basterds, play another purring psycho."

The AP called the film "a three-ring bore." Slamming both of the film's stars for "bringing little passion to a love story supposedly so fiery, it blows the roof off the big top." Though, reviewer David Germain did have praise for the film's other main character. "The movie's lone star attraction is Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award as a gleefully psychotic Nazi in Inglourious Basterds and here delivers another wicked performance as Witherspoon's hubby, the cruel, jealous circus ringleader."

The Chicago Tribune was less harsh, writing, "Like The Notebook, but with an elephant, the unexpectedly good film version of Water for Elephants elevates pure corn to a completely satisfying realm of romantic melodrama.

Roger Ebert's bottom line? "This is good sound family entertainment, a safe PG-13 but not a dumb one, and it's a refreshing interlude before we hurtle into the summer blockbuster season."