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Water for Elephants [2011] [PG-13] - 6.6.4



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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Based on the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen: After a veterinary student's (Robert Pattinson) parents are killed, he leaves school and joins a traveling circus. As feelings between him and the star attraction (Reese Witherspoon) rise, so does tension between him and the circus owner (Christoph Waltz), who's her husband. Also with Paul Schneider, Hal Holbrook and Mark Povinelli. Directed by Francis Lawrence. [2:02]

SEX/NUDITY 6 - A man and a woman hug and then kiss passionately; the woman pulls off the man's shirt (his bare chest and back are visible), they recline on a bed, the man appears to push the woman's dress up (no nudity is visible) and they kiss passionately (sex is implied and we later see the woman sleeping in the bed, fully clothed, as the man is putting on his shirt).
 A man and a woman dance, the man puts his head on the woman's shoulder, then grabs her and kisses her, the woman pushes him away slightly, he violently grabs her chin and holds it, and the woman calmly pushes him away and puts him in a bed. A man holds a woman on his lap and they kiss as he rubs her arm. A man and a woman dance, the man puts his hands on the woman's back, the woman rubs her hands on the man's head, and they are about to kiss but are interrupted by shouting. A woman and a man kiss, the woman holds the man's head in her hands and then pulls away. A man and a woman kiss and we then see the man carrying the woman, piggyback style. A series of women kiss a man on the cheek, and one woman kisses him on the cheek (we see lipstick marks on his cheek) and whispers in his ear; the man looks at her longingly.
 A woman in a bikini-style top and a skirt dances suggestively in front of men that are cat-calling and whistling; it is implied the woman takes off her top (we see no nudity but hear the men shout and see her bare shoulders). We see a man looking at two photographs of nude women with stars covering their nipples and genital area. A man watches, unseen, as a woman runs her hands over her legs. A man stares at a woman's exposed back (she is wearing a backless dress). A man lifts open the trunk he is lying in and several people laugh as he stands up and is wearing an off-the-shoulder dress while a nipple tassel hangs from his chest. Throughout the movie we see a woman wearing a variety of costumes that appear to be cleavage and torso exposing, bikini-style outfits, but we see a sheer flesh-colored suit covering any exposed flesh. A woman is seen wearing a backless dress on two occasions. A woman's cleavage is briefly seen as she wears a low-cut dress under an open robe. We see a man's bare chest and back when he works. We see multiple men wearing open vests revealing their bare chests as part of a costume. A man is seen shirtless as part of a costume.
 A man instructs another man to wrap his arm around the man's wife as he watches, and he then tells the woman and the man to stare lovingly into one another's eyes and for the man to put his hand on the woman's lower back; the woman pulls away and tells the man to stop making suggestive demands. A man discovers a woman and man lying in bed, with the man's arms are wrapped around the woman (they are fully clothed).
 A woman kneels down before a man, and the man kneels down and they kiss; the man makes a crude remark about the woman performing oral sex frequently. As two men walk through a crowded circus train filled with women wearing robes, one of the women stands suggestively close to one of the men and offers to give him a private "peep show" as another woman sitting on a bunk bed wraps her legs around his head and jokes that she could "show him a good time."
 A man tells another man that he and his wife had "reunited the marital bed" (meaning they had sex the previous night). We hear a man's voiceover say that he was going to be the first man a young woman "invited into her bed." A man teases another man about his crotch itching, implying that the man had shaved his pubic hair and that it would "grow back in patches." A man teases another man that he had tried to put the moves on a woman and she had turned him down. A woman jokes that a man would like to be "left alone" with an elephant after the man jokes that the elephant is flirting with him. A man and a woman mention a "coochie girl" as entertainment in a circus (it is not explained what it is).

VIOLENCE/GORE 6 - An elephant lifts a spike from the ground, strikes a man in the head and the man falls to the ground, dead; we see a small spray of blood coming from the wound in the back of the man's head and a trickle of blood from his nose and we later hear a voiceover stating that the man had died and people assumed that he had been trampled to death.
 A man runs through a crowd of people, another man catches his shoulder and punches him in the face; the man falls to the ground and the other man continues to punch him, a woman strikes the aggressor with a pole with a spike on the end, he spins around and chases the woman, he throws her to the ground and pins her with the pole at her neck while she struggles (we see her legs twitching and her face goes red and then white).
 A man takes a hook on a cane and attacks an elephant, hitting it repeatedly in the shoulder and side, and another man jumps on him, while two other men tackle the man to the ground, holds him back as he struggles to get up to help the elephant, and we hear the cries of the elephant coming from the train car; the man emerges and drops the bloody hook on the ground, we see the elephant covered in puncture wounds and bleeding profusely and a spray of blood is seen on the attacker's shirt.
 Four men crash through the door of a room where a man and a woman are sitting, they shove the man to the ground and one of the men grabs the woman and holds her arms back as the men beat the young man's face repeatedly; we later see him with his face covered in cuts and bleeding. A man punches another man in the face multiple times (his face is already cut and has two bloody smears), we see blood and spittle in a light spray from the man's facial wounds, two other men grab the attacker and drag him away, and we hear a voiceover explaining that the attacker was never seen again and presumably had been killed by the two men. A woman slaps a man, the man punches the woman, another man lunges at the man and two men leap toward him in order to hold him back; the first man raises a bottle above the other man's head, about to strike him but drops it when he realizes people are watching (the woman is later seen with a black eye). A man instructs another man to use a bat to hit people on the head if they try to sneak into a tent, and we see the two men knock two teenage boys on the head; we hear the clank as it hits their head and they shout.
 Three men shove their way into a train car, push another man to the ground, another man shouts at the man being hassled and the two men hold his head out of the open train door as the train races along; they swing him out and then throw him back into the train car and he falls against the wall (he's unharmed but obviously scared). A man grabs another man by the neck, and slams him against a stack of boxes as another man cocks a pistol; a third man tells the first man to put him down, the man drops him, and the other man puts down the pistol. A man with a bloody hooked cane approaches another man, and it appears that he is going to attack him but he drops the cane.
 A man stabs an elephant in the shoulder with a hook, repeatedly, the elephant rears up and the woman riding on the back of the elephant panics and grabs onto a pole as the elephant runs off, and the woman does a flip off the pole and lands on the ground (her ankle is slightly twisted but unharmed). A man instructs another man to jab an elephant in the shoulder with a hook, and he then stabs the elephant in the shoulder; we see blood on the hook and coming from a puncture in the elephant's skin and a man and a woman are later seen cleaning the puncture hole, with blood crusted under the cut.
 We hear screams and shrieks and we see two men letting wild animals out of their cages, including a bear that tackles a man (no blood is visible) and lions and tigers that chase people from a bandstand; lions, hyenas and tigers race around the tent while people scream and run for cover, a wagon filled with men and being led by horses, tips over and one of the men falls to the ground as the wagon is dragged away by the horses, and a young girl trips in the chaos and we see a man scoop her up as the animals growl and snap. A man reaches into a lion's cage, the lion lunges and bites his arm, and the man falls backwards and hits the ground while holding his arm; a man laughs at him and tells him the lion has no teeth.
 A man tells a woman it would be best to put a horse down because it was in great pain; he then gets a pistol and puts it next to the horse's head as the woman strokes its mane, we hear a gunshot but see no blood and only briefly see the dead horse laying on the ground with the woman beside it. A man examines a small bloody cut at the bottom of a horse's foot, and he shows the cut to a woman, who says that it is a boil. A man tells another man that a bloody cut on a horse's foot is causing it significant pain since it is a ligament tearing away from a bone and the horse will soon be unable to walk and needs to be put down.
 A man tells another man that his parents were in a car accident, and we see two bodies on a table; a small amount of blood is seen seeping through the sheets covering the lower halves of their bodies and their faces look swollen and bruised. We see two men discovering the deceased bodies of two men: one man's face is cut and bruised, the other man's body appears to have smashed against rocks.
 A man tells a young man that if anyone laid a hand on a woman he would injure them. A man shouts at another man. A woman tells a young man that monkeys had bitten her. A man says that another man would have no qualms about killing an animal. A woman tells a young man that a man expects people to work even if they are sick, saying that he expects people to ask permission to die. A man says that a dead horse had become food for the lions. A woman says that she had been abandoned as a child, was found wrapped in newspapers under a seat in a train, and that she had been to abusive foster homes. We hear the voiceover of a man saying that he was tired of castrations and sticking his hand into the behind of animals for vet school. A man jokes that he would not be caught dead with a group of people. A man jokes that another man had "dropped dead." An older man tells a man that a woman had died in her sleep. A man jokes that he had filled the tank of a dead hippo with formaldehyde and used it as an exhibit and that a circus had been filled with pickpockets and grifters. On multiple occasions we hear about men being thrown off of a moving train, and presumably getting killed. A woman tells a young man that two dead people had been discovered beside the tracks of a train.
 A woman winces in pain as a man touches her foot and she says that she sprained her wrist and bruised her heel when she jumped from a pole. A man and a woman leap from a moving train; they are unharmed.
 A man vomits: we see the vomit leaving his mouth and hitting the wall and ground and the sound of gagging is heard, as well as the sound of the vomit hitting the ground. A man says that he had thrown up on a woman. We see maggots and flies crawling on scraps of food that two men are feeding to lions and tigers. A man coughs as he and another man shovel cow manure, and he remarks about the smell. Using crude language, a man jokes in front of other men that another man had spent the day shoveling horse manure.
 An elephant sprays water all over a man; he looks irritated. Men and women playfully spray a man with seltzer water and hit him in the face and body with cream pies and he laughs.

PROFANITY 4 - 7 sexual references, 2 scatological terms, 3 anatomical terms (1 mild), 12 mild obscenities, name-calling (irresponsible, bum, filthy roustabouts, suckers, rubes, wickets, menagerie of trained seals, cheap, awkward, side show act), exclamations (gosh, good grief), 2 religious profanities, 1 religious exclamation. [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A man says that he is "stuffed so full of pills" by the people in a nursing home that he has no feelings. The movie is set during the time of Prohibition so we see the following in relation to drinking: throughout the movie we see people drinking champagne and liquor and we see men drinking liquor from bottles, a police raid on a club that allowed drinking, a man getting ill from drinking ginger extract which another man says had been tainted by the government to discourage people from drinking it as alcohol, men discuss how getting alcohol is difficult, a man asks another man for a drink and we see him drinking, a man gives multiple bottles of liquor to an elephant on two occasions, a man gives liquor to a dog (the dog is later seen ill but recovers), a man appears to suffer from a hangover and he explains he does not remember everything that happened the previous night, and a woman blames drinking champagne on her not remembering something on two occasions. Men and women are seen smoking cigarettes on multiple occasions and men are seen smoking cigars on multiple occasions.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - The Great Depression, traveling circuses, Polish immigrants, Cornell University, loss of a parent, foreclosure of homes, running away, Ringling Brothers circus, veterinary sciences, betrayal, destruction, jealousy, infidelity, animal abuse.

MESSAGE - Life can be a struggle sometimes, but finding a place where you belong is key for having a fulfilling and happy life.

Special Keywords: S6 - V6 - P4 - MPAAPG-13

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