Directed by: Mark Palansky
Premise: An upper class woman (Christina Ricci) is struck by a family curse, giving her a pig snout for a nose. Hidden away from society, her parents attempt to find an upper class man to marry her and dispel the curse.
What Works: Penelope is a fairy tale in the Cinderella mode. The film casts Christina Ricci in the title role, and she is a good pick because the character spends the middle of the film with a scarf around her face, and the part requires an actress who can convey a lot of emotion through her body language and her eyes. Ricci’s acting and the makeup work combine to sell the illusion of her deformity convincingly and she brings a lot of humanity to the role. Also convincing is the budding romance between Penelope and her would-be prince (James McAvoy). These early scenes are done very well and avoid cliché in the courtship. There is a lot of humor in the film, with snicker worthy moments coming every few minutes and a few bigger laughs along the way. As a whole, the picture has a good heartedness about it and it makes for a satisfying watch.
What Doesn’t: The main weakness of the film is its lack of weight. The love story works and in particular moments the film touches on Penelope’s heartache. But her quest into the city does not yield much of an epiphany, at least not something she couldn’t have figured out before the journey. If something more were at stake, something more palatable, the film would be considerably stronger.
Bottom Line: Penelope is a sweet fairy tale, a few notches below E.T. the Extra Terrestrial or Bridge to Terabithia. It might rank higher if it had more substance to it but as a family film or a date movie, Penelope is good enough.
Episode: #188 (May 4, 2008)