In this glossy adaptation of Sara Gruen's bestseller, Robert Pattinson plays Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student who abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a travelling circus as their vet. He falls in love with performer Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), incurring the wrath of her violent husband (Christoph Waltz) and also bonds with a circus elephant. I Am Legend director Francis Lawrence crafts a solidly old-fashioned romantic drama with a strong performance from Pattinson showing that his career's unlikely to be eclipsed by the Twilight saga.
After his on-off relationship as a lovelorn vampire with Miss Misery Boots Kristen Stewart is it any wonder that R-Patz has run off to the circus?
In this solid adaptation of Sara Gruen's best-selling novel, he plays Jacob, a student who lands work as a lowly mucker-outer after his education as a vet is cut short by the tragic death of his parents.
He's working for the Depression era Benzini Bros Circus, a fading Big Top outfit literally run with a rod of iron by psychotic showman August Rosenbluth (Waltz).
Jacob soon finds himself drawn to August's unhappy wife Marlena (Witherspoon) an initially standoffish equine stuntwoman who melts when Jacob shoots a lame horse in the head, sparing him untold agony.
Their love is cemented when they look on in horror as August delivers a severe beating to Rosie, a Polish-speaking elephant he picked up as a bargain from a bankrupt rival circus.
Determinedly old-fashioned, this romantic drama may occasionally teeter over into melodrama but is never less than watchable, particularly thanks to Pattinson's burgeoning talent as a leading man.
Witherspoon is more a comedy actress, but she's game and up for it, particularly when smilingly balanced on top of several tons of pachyderm in a sparkly leotard.
Waltz basically reprises his nasty Nazi Inglourious Basterds role of Colonel Hans Landa, except with a top hat and tails replacing the SS uniform (he doesn't sack surplus staff - just chucks them off a fast-moving train).
Where Francis Lawrence's story scores highly is the look and atmosphere of the 1930s circus, a canvas den of showgirls, leering roustabouts and big-hearted midgets.
It's a tricky high-wire act...but he just about pulls it off.