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Charming Actors Save Penelope by a Nose

  • Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2008 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Charming Actors Save <i>Penelope</i> by a Nose

DVD Release Date:  July 15, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  February 29, 2008
Rating:  PG (thematic elements, some innuendo and language)
Genre:  Romantic comedy/fairy tale
Run Time:  102 min.
Director:  Adam Brooks
Actors:  Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O’Hara, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods

Like most fairy tales, Penelope has a fairly predictable premise with an underlying moral about “believing in yourself,” no matter how, hmmm, unconventional, one looks.

Of course, that’s not a bad message in our Botox-obsessed, diet-crazed society. Still, it’s one that’s definitely been tackled in cinema before. What ultimately lifts Penelope from been-there-seen-that status, however, are the charming performances from leads Christina Ricci, James McAvoy and even Penelope’s hideously superficial mother, played by Catherine O’Hara of Christopher Guest mockumentary fame. Even Reese Witherspoon does well in a minor role because audiences haven’t often seen her as the “edgy, smart-mouthed” girl since, well, Election.

Usually, it’s a sign of horrible things to come when a movie’s release date is postponed not once, but twice. And while a story about a girl cursed with a pig’s nose may seem a tad too unconventional to appeal to the masses, this movie still has a universal, winning quality that should resonate with anyone willing to give it a chance.

Given her parents’ much-buzzed-about societal status, Penelope’s birth is highly anticipated. Well, unless she’s the one with the family curse—an unsightly pig’s snout smack dab in the middle of an otherwise pretty face.

And since everyone’s trying to get a snapshot of this unusual looking girl, her parents keep her in seclusion in a bedroom that Tim Burton might imagine for one of his screen daughters. But like most curious young girls, Penelope (Ricci) can’t help but wonder what the outside world is like, something that doesn’t go unnoticed by her parents, who are constantly reminding her how unbecoming this facial flaw is.

With plastic surgery out of the question for reasons not very well defined by the resident doctor, Penelope’s parents decide to approach the problem from a new angle:  by doing a little matchmaking. Surely, the kiss of an accepting blue-blooded prince would give her the schnoz (and eventually, the seemingly perfect life) that everyone’s always dreamed about.

Of course, it’s not easy convincing a guy to stick around once they get one good look at her, even if her dowry is more than generous enough to lure them there in the first place. In fact, day after day, guys are shown jumping out of her window, forcing the family to invest in unbreakable glass.

This doesn’t do much to convince Penelope that her prince will come, but her circumstances certainly don’t quench her spirit. Not only is Penelope intelligent because the characters she’s made up and books have always been her trusted friends, but she doesn’t let her Mom’s repeated knocks at her appearance get her down. Instead, she basically accepts herself for who she is.

But when Max (McAvoy) shows up on the scene, her emotionally stability suddenly changes in the uncertain light of puppy love. But Max isn’t necessarily who he says he is. While Max seems like a financially challenged blueblood enlisted by a tabloid journalist named Lemon and a repugnant suitor named Edward (Simon Woods) to get a picture of “the pig girl,” the oh-so-charming Max may get the money he needs to continue his nasty gambling habit because he doesn’t run away. Unfortunately for Max, he gets far more than he bargained for when he actually starts to fall for Penelope.

Since he’s not a true blueblood, Max is convinced he can’t give Penelope what she really needs—freedom from the curse. So he, like so many before, takes a hike—and Penelope doesn’t quite understand why.

So will Penelope ever get a normal nose and a happily-ever-after-ending? You probably already know the answer, but will probably enjoy the journey all the same if your expectations are kept in a proper fairy-tale perspective.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking pictured in several scenes.
  • Language/Profanity:  A couple of minor profanities including instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  None, aside from some kissing and a couple of innuendos that’ll probably go over the heads of most pre-teens.
  • Violence:  At the sight of Penelope, the eligible bachelors leap out of her bedroom window, crashing through glass. An imagined version of Penelope’s fangs are bared in one scene that’s mildly disturbing.
  • Gambling:  Max has a gambling problem that he eventually overcomes.