Penelope, which premiered at last year’s Maui Film Festival, is a modern-day fairy tale about a young woman (played by the fearless Christina Ricci) who was born with a pig nose, the result of a family curse; the only way for her nose to become normal is for her to marry. Following a parade of rich suitors who literally throw themselves out a window upon seeing her face, Penelope leaves her overly protective family and sets out to see the outside world, which has been hidden from her and vice versa.
The film was made two years ago and was likely released now in order to partake in the recent revival of live-action fairy tales, but the movie suffers in comparison to the more delightful Enchanted and the wilder Stardust. It’s too edgy for small children (one scene in particular could give them a year’s worth of nightmares) and the movie is cluttered with too many characters. Also, a major twist involving a character’s identity doesn’t have the punch intended and the movie lacks the clarity and focus that Tim Burton gave his thematically similar Edward Scissorhands.
Yet, the film is pretty good, and there are lovely visuals and great scenes (as when Ricci and her most promising suitor meet face-to-face for the first time). The cast is first rate: Ricci is a sympathetic heroine and her fake nose is an entirely convincing make-up achievement. James McAvoy is a likeable enough Prince-Charming-to-be, Peter Dinklage is gruff perfection as always, Catherine O’Hara and Richard A. Grant bring a lot to their roles as Penelope’s clueless parents and Reese Witherspoon (the film’s producer) has a spunky supporting role as Penelope’s best friend, though in my opinion the movie could’ve used more of her.
This is a good choice for pre-teen girls and the overall message–that we need to be happy with whom we are–is a good one. Granted, the movie lays the message on a little too thick. Not a classic, but many key moments–like the closing scenes, which you’ll have to see for yourself– are delightful.MTW