Francis Lawrence's screen adaptation of Sara Gruen's novel renders the Depression-era yarn about a traveling circus with a vividness that was absent in print. Its piquant detailing of the carny world captures the imagination, but the story comes down to a tired love triangle involving August (Christoph Waltz), a controlling circus owner, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), his horse-riding wife, and Jacob (Robert Pattinson), a stowaway veterinarian. Jacob and Marlena's affair springs from a mutual love of animals, and August's cruel disregard for life only emboldens them. Pattinson holds his own with the two Oscar winners — though his character sometimes gets stuck in wide-eyed mode. Lawrence (I Am Legend) brings some authenticity to the mini-epic but succumbs to its sentimentality. The real star is Rosie, a 57-year-old elephant: the heart of the book, she's a winner on film, too.