Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Hal Holbrook, Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz
The story is told as a flashback by an old man named Jacob (Holbrook) who is trying to get a job with a circus, present day. The plot takes place back during the depression in 1931 when as a young man (Pattinson) Jacob loses both of his parents in a car accident. He drops out of Cornell University's veterinary school and wanders aimlessley in search of a job and a new life. He hops aboard a train that just so happens to be a circus train. The circus owner, August (Waltz) is prepared to throw him off the train untill he learns that young Jacob has a talent for veterinary medicine. Jacob immediately becomes infatuated with the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon) who also happens to be August's wife. Marlena soon has mutual feelings for Jacob. In an era when times are tough, and jobs are few, the circus is in trouble of being shut down after losing it's main attraction, a horse. August purhcases an aged elephant named Rosie in hopes of reviving the circus. With Jacob training Rosie, and Marlena riding her, the circus succeeds in bringing the crowds.
The narrative then begins to unfold a tale of forbidden romance between Jacob and Marlena, and the tyrannical ways of the circus owner, August. Much like his role of a merciless Nazi in Inglourious Basterds (2009), Waltz uses the same characteristics of a leader with an iron fist. His radiant charm hides his true cold hearted ways. He knows more of what's going on between his wife and Jacob than what he leads to believe. When he finally does let Jacob and Marlena know that he has discovered their romance, the scene is eerily reminiscent to the opening scene in Inglourious Basterds when Col. Hans Landa lets the farmer know that he knows that he's harboring Jewish refugees. I won't spoil it for you, but the fate of the circus and its owner takes a turn after the romance of Jacob and Marlena comes to light.
This PG-13 film is good, wholesome family entertainment. In an era of CGI and pre-fabricated special effects, it's nice to see a film come along that gets back to basics; a good story, made with real people on real sets.