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Water for Elephants Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French & Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x Digital Copy)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 1 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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BestBuy.com:
Water for Elephants - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle AC3

Purchase Water for Elephants on Blu-ray+Digital Copy at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3/5]

From the Sara Gruen novel, Water for Elephants is meant to transport us to a time when the circus was truly a place of wonderment, a place to get away from the troubles of the outside world and lose oneself in fantasy and make believe. Instead what we get in Water for Elephants is a fiction or fantasy laden with melodrama and two protagonists in Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) and Robert Pattinson (Twilight films) without an ounce of onscreen chemistry between them.

The story is set in 1930s depression era America. Pattinson, in his rather dull and non-emotive manner, plays Jacob, a handsome young Cornell student who leaves school before sitting his final exams and earning a degree in veterinary medicine when his parents die in a car accident. He hops a freight that happens to belong to the Branzini Bros. traveling circus and fate runs its course. He takes a job there as their staff veterinarian and quickly falls in love with the star attraction, Marlena (Witherspoon). The problem is that Marlena is the wife of the circus’ owner, the cruel and violent August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz). This is a man who throws men off of a moving train just so he won’t have to ay them, so one could imagine what he would do to Jacob should he find out about his fascination with Marlena. Jacob and Marlena carry on a secret flirtation under the watchful eye of August and his circus goons, particularly when they are drawn together to train with one of August’s latest main attractions, an elephant named Rosie.

Let me stop right here and say that, I won’t divulge much more of this story, but not too far into Water for Elephants, I had already discerned the outcome, right down to how the conflict between Rosie (yes, even the elephant gets drawn into this one), August, Marlena and Jacob would resolve. That’s never a good sign. I’ve never read Gruen’s novel, so I can’t say how good or bad of an adaptation to screen this film is, but I have to believe that the book has to be better than this.

The film does have some good going for it. Waltz’ performance is particularly outstanding; he is more than believable as a brute, murderer, and jealous husband. Pattinson, on the other hand, ought not quit his day job skulking about in those vampire flicks. The set is stunning and truly transports one to the era along with the well chosen Jazz Age soundtrack. Outside of those things, this one is a big disappointment.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Water for Elephants has a wonderful transfer to Blu-ray from Fox. Sourced from a variety of 35mm and Super-35mm film elements, the transfer is flawless, with no hints of source damage, as one would expect from a film of such recent vintage. It has great detail extension and strong textural presence in foreground and backgrounds. Darker shades are nice and deep, while brighter colors pop quite nicely, such as the red of August’s ringmaster coat and the various bright lights of the traveling circus.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Audio is another strong aspect of this release. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack opens with some pretty good low frequency extension and surround effects in the first scene’s rainy first act. From then on, we are given clean dialogue, and numerous occasions where we are engulfed in the sounds of the crowds, the roar of lions, or the stomps of Rosie the elephant.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

The release doesn’t disappoint on extras either, offering up an audio commentary, numerous featurettes in high definition, and the BD-Live driven Live Lookup feature that Fox likes to provide from time to time.

The supplements provided with this release:

  • Audio commentary with director Francis Lawrence and writer Richard Lagravenese
  • Raising the Tent (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:42) – The cast and filmmakers discuss working on the set of the recreated 1930s big top circus as scenes of the film and production footage are interspersed.
  • Secrets of the Big Top (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:13) – A brief history of the circus in America.
  • The Star Attraction (1.78:1; 1080p/24;00:09:12) – Working with the elephant.
  • The Traveling Show – Page to Screen (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:14) – Author Sara Gruen discusses the inspiration for her novel and bringing it to the screen.
  • Robert Pattinson – Spotlight (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:03:58) – A brief spotlight of the actor Robert Pattinson finds cast members and filmmakers lavishing praise on the young star.
  • Working Without a Net: The Visual Effects of Water for Elephants (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:37)
  • Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:35)– A look at Reese Witherspoons training in circus school for the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Live Extras:
    • Live Lookup – Obtain instant access to up-to-date actor filmographies and information related to Water for Elephants via IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.
    • Exclusive: Stars of the Circus – This BD-Live exclusive can be streamed or downloaded. It focuses on the animals and animal trainers from Water for Elephants and the lead actors’ interactions with the animals.
  • DVD
  • Digital Copy

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

My recommendation for this one is to rent it if you really want to see it, despite the excellent transfer to Blu-ray, beautiful costumes and sets, and strong performance by Christoph Waltz, this one is ultimately disappointing.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B0041KKYHO[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Water for Elephants - Widescreen Dubbed Subtitle AC3

Purchase Water for Elephants on Blu-ray+Digital Copy at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

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