She's ugly. She's awful. She's a monster.... right? Well, she must be, because her suitors tend to run screaming whenever she enters a room. Sure, these guys are bluebloods, ("old money", as one potential beau puts it), but they can't have such a warped perspective that they would be so violently repulsed if the girl weren't truly... awful. Right?

Uh... no. She's Christina Ricci with a pig nose. Honestly, any objective observer can see that she's a perfectly lovely young woman, with an oddly shaped schnoz. You might wonder if there had been an unfortunate accident, or you might think that perhaps a plastic surgeon's scalpel slipped, but you would not, by any means, run screaming from the premises and then go to the police department to report a monster on the loose. I'm not kidding. That really happens in this movie.

In all honesty, I was more than a little disappointed. The concept of Penelope is actually quite engaging: a wealthy girl in the upper classes of society is cursed before her birth, so that she would have "the face of a pig" until she finds someone "of her own kind" to love her for who she is. At that point, the spell will, presumably, be broken. Of course, Penelope's snobby parents take the "of her own kind" clause to mean someone also descended from an old, prominent, wealthy family. That particular element is as transparent as a Lil' Kim red carpet outfit; anyone can see that it's going to mean something different.

What really bummed me out, though, is that Penelope does not have the face of a pig. She has the face of Christina Ricci... with a wrinkly, turned-up nose. Imagine how much more believable and engaging this story would be if Ricci had been given the true pig-face! Unfortunately, in Hollywood even the "monsters" have to be smokin' hot.

Another element of the movie that really got on my nerves was the character of Penelope's mom, played by Catherine O'Hara. There really wasn't much to her; she was one of those broad characters that the audience is supposed to "love to hate." She turned out to be the real monster in this movie, giving Penelope the impression from the time she was little that no one would love her as she was.

What bothered me the most, though, is that at the film's climax, Penelope comes close to forgiving her mother everything; I believe the line was, "It's OK, Mom, you didn't know." Excuse me??? We're going to excuse a mother for not loving her child unconditionally? Of course, Mom continues to show her true colors and gets what's coming to her in the end... but I did not like the alls-well-that-ends-well idea they were flirting with for a moment.

Overall, Penelope was only passable... but had the potential to be a truly fantastic movie. I know this was the first effort by director Mark Palansky and producer Reese Witherspoon... but as we just saw in last weekend's Oscars (dang it, I wasn't going to mention them again!), inexperience doesn't necessarily mean lack of quality.

One positive: having first discovered James McAvoy as Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe--and since then only seeing him in The Last King of Scotland and Atonement--I'd never seen him with an American accent! I gotta say, that was pretty hot. ;-)
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7 Response to "penelope"

  1. Karl Hungus says:
    February 28, 2008 at 12:10 PM

    You know, I actually found Ricci kind of cute with the pigs nose, so I would agree with you, it takes some stern suspension of disbelief to take the movie seriously.

  2. Rachel says:
    February 28, 2008 at 7:18 PM

    No! You lost me at the "James McAvoy with an American accent" part. I hate when hot British guys drop their sexy accents (someone please let me know when Cillian Murphy gets his back!).

  3. Patricia Perry says:
    February 28, 2008 at 8:20 PM

    "transparent as a Lil' Kim red carpet outfit" HA! That's great!

    I love Cristina Ricci, James McAvoy and Reese Witerhspoon -but I have zero interest in seeing this.

  4. Daniel says:
    February 29, 2008 at 9:43 AM

    Wow, that picture is crazy. I only skimmed through so as not to read spoilers in case I ever see it, but your third paragraph about the concept makes it sound intriguing.

    By the way, if you still haven't gotten your Landmark email, tickets for Hansard/Irglova go on sale in about 20 minutes, special code "landmark"

  5. Karl Hungus says:
    February 29, 2008 at 1:42 PM

    Cillian Murphy isn't British mrs. thuro, he's Irish.

  6. Rachel says:
    February 29, 2008 at 10:55 PM

    Karl: I knew that comment would come back to bite me. That just goes to show how little Mr. Murphy's used his native tongue as of late, or at least what I've seen him in.

  7. Anonymous Says:
    March 3, 2008 at 11:16 AM

    I still want to see this, Ricci gets me all giddy, plus it looks like good night out.

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