Monday, March 3, 2008

Jane's Review: Penelope

by Jane Louise Boursaw

Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some innuendo and language
Released in Theaters: Feb. 29, 2008
Genre: Comedy, Family, Romance
Runtime: 102 minutes
Directed by: Mark Palansky
Cast: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant

SYNOPSIS: This modern-day fairy tale tells the story of Penelope, a young heiress who’s born with the nose of a pig. The family curse, cast by a wicked witch generations ago, can only be broken if Penelope finds true love with “one who will love her faithfully.”

Sex/ Nudity: Some romantic overtones and kissing between characters, but nothing overt.

Violence/Gore: Comic action when potential suitors flee for their life once they see Penelope’s face (they crash through a window, and a guard tackles them). A photographer is injured trying to get a picture of her.

Profanity: “Damn” and “hell”.

Which Kids Will Like It? Ages 8 and older who like romantic, modern-day fairy tales like “Enchanted” and “Shrek” (though those movies are better).

Will Parents Like It? Yes. Although it’s a rather pedestrian take on the fairy tale, there’s nothing objectionable here, and the message is good: love yourself, and be true to yourself.

REVIEW: This likeable little movie harks back to the days of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, when evil witches, family curses, and handsome princes were the norm. Only this movie is set in a modern day metropolis and tells the story of Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci), a beautiful young girl except for the fact that she has the nose of a pig.

It’s all because of a family curse that dates back a couple of generations. The town witch, miffed that her servant daughter was scorned by a Wilhern, placed the curse on the family, giving the next-born female the pig of a nose. To break the curse, Penelope must find true love with “one of her own kind who will love her faithfully.”

As you might imagine, finding a wealthy socialite to love a girl with a pig nose is a challenge. Hidden away in her family’s estate, Penelope’s overbearing mother (Catherine O’Hara) and hen-pecked father (Richard E. Grant) parade a string of suitors through the house in the hopes that someone will love the girl for who she is.

Hidden behind a one-way glass, Penelope chats with the guys via microphone, including a blue blood named Edward (Simon Woods). All is well -- until they get a look at her nose and run screaming from the house in horror. All except for one, that is – Max (James McAvoy).

The only problem? Max is working with a photographer named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) who’s desperate to get a shot of the pig-nosed girl. Also, Max has a heart and may not be the person he claims to be.

Penelope finally escapes from the house and goes into the real world, where she sips beer in a pub (her first!) and makes friends with Annie (Reese Witherspoon), an edgy delivery girl who takes her for a ride on her Vespa.

I think this is one of those movies that could have been really good – but isn’t. Christina Ricci hits all the right notes as a girl plagued with a curse beyond her control, and Reese Witherspoon and James McAvoy are adorable, as always. You’re really pulling for Max to make it work with this girl.

Over-the-top Catherine O’Hara is too much of a caricature to be believable. I’m not even sure why Richard E. Grant was in the movie, because he really doesn’t do much at all.

Still, the message is good, especially for young girls dealing with school cliques and self-esteem issues: Believe in yourself and love yourself for who you are. Don’t try to change for someone else.

Too much like a fairy tale? Maybe, but maybe life doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Visit her online at or email

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