Penelope Reviews


Christina Ricci stars as Penelope, a lonely heiress who has spent her entire life trying to break a strange family curse that left her with the nose of a pig. When she meets a charming aristocrat (James McAvoy) who seems to see beyond her physical appearance, Penelope begins to learn that loving herself is more important than breaking the curse. Also starring Reese Witherspoon and Catherine O’Hara, Penelope is a delightful modern-day fairy tale for the entire family.Taking cues from Beauty and the Beast and Cyrano de Bergerac, director Mark Palanksy debuts with a slight, if fanciful confection. Produced by Reese Witherspoon and written by Leslie Caveny, Penelope begins with the phrase, “Once upon a time…,” making it clear the proceedings owe more to fantasy than reality. Due to a family curse, Ricci’s sweet-natured heiress sports a pig snout instead of a normal nose. Since surgery isn’t an option–it would sever her carotid artery–her parents (Christopher Guest favorite Catherine O’

Rating: (out of 94 reviews)

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5 thoughts on “Penelope Reviews

  1. Review by Ed Uyeshima for Penelope
    Considering she played a white-trash nymphomaniac chained to a radiator in the last film I saw with her, Black Snake Moan, I was actually relieved to see Christina Ricci play a sheltered girl of standing born with a pig’s snout in this whimsical 2008 parable about self-acceptance. Directed by first-timer Mark Palansky and written by sitcom veteran Leslie Caveney (Everybody Loves Raymond), the film was shelved for over a year until it was released in February to mostly apathetic reviews. That’s a shame since there is a certain charm generated by the fractured fairy tale being told. Palansky shows a surprisingly light touch for someone who has apprenticed under the aegis of Michael Bay on bombastic schlock like Pearl Harbor and Armageddon, but Caveney’s screenplay frequently comes across as plodding and repetitive when the story should feel beguiling. Still, it somehow saves itself by the end thanks primarily to a game cast.

    The plot follows the sad tale of Penelope Wilhern, an heiress subject to a multi-generational curse when her 19th-century ancestors refused to allow one of their own to marry a servant girl. As the first girl born in the family since that injustice, Penelope is burdened with a pig’s snout and can return to normalcy when a fellow aristocrat vows to love her for life. Her obsessive, superficial mother Jessica hides Penelope away in the mansion, even faking her death when a tabloid photographer threatens to take a picture. As Penelope comes of age, Jessica uses a professional matchmaker to line up potential suitors, but they all jump out the window when they see Penelope’s supposedly hideous face. One particular aristocrat goes public with what his sighting of Penelope, but of course, there is another candidate, a disheveled, gambling jazz pianist named Max, who does fall in love with her. I was wondering why producer Reese Witherspoon didn’t cast herself in the title role given her box office clout, but Ricci is the more suitable choice with her otherworldly stares and naturally pouty manner.

    The problem is that Ricci (beyond not being a proven bankable draw) looks like she has intentionally applied prosthetic makeup to herself. Rather than looking grotesque, she just looks cartoonishly cute. Witherspoon does cast herself but in a small role as Annie, a Vespa-riding messenger who is Gregory Peck to Ricci’s Audrey Hepburn on Penelope’s Roman Holiday-style adventure. Witherspoon hasn’t been this relaxed and likable since she became a star. As Max, the omnipresent James McAvoy (who seems to be suffering from the same level of overexposure Jude Law did a few years back) is more in his element here than as the smitten, heroic soldier in Atonement. In what feels like a nod to her role as the panicked mother in Home Alone, the redoubtable Catherine O’Hara generates most of the laughs as Jessica, but her constant shrieking gets repetitive. Peter Dinklage has a few nicely sinister moments as the tabloid photographer. The eclectic soundtrack is highlighted by the Sigur Ros’ HoppĂ­polla. The only significant extra on the 2008 DVD is a disposable six-minute making-of featurette.

  2. Review by ! MR. KNOW IT ALL ;-b for Penelope
    I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale and ‘Penelope’ is one of the best I’ve seen in years. Ricci is perfect in the title role and although she has a pig’s nose, strangely she remains attractive in this quirky love story! What I loved about this film was the more you get to know her character, the more her bizarre disfigurement just didn’t matter. There’s a great message here about acceptance and how self esteem can alter the way people perceive you, but unfortunately the DVD is a bit of a bummer. There aren’t many extras and there are scenes cut and shortened from the film at least how it was viewed over seas. I didn’t see this film in theaters, so I’m not quite sure what exactly has been changes. It would have been nice to offer a 2 disc edition with both versions of the film and more extra material.

  3. Review by JudyMoody for Penelope
    I’ve read some reviews @ ‘’ and someone there picked up on the same issue I have with these sorts of movies: in the end, the actress is always beautiful [even with the nose on she’s still Christina Ricci: pretty] – so what does that really tell unattractive people like myself? That I can feel really good about how I look even though I can’t take my face off in some make-up trailer at the end of the day? And even the Fairy Tale books; it’s always Beauty and the Beast, or Sleeping Beauty and the Handsome Prince – never Unredeemingly Ugly Girl and the Gosh-Awful Prince. Have you ever seen America Ferrara on the Red Carpet? She doesn’t look anything like the character she plays on ‘Ugly Betty’…….why? because she has to show up at industry functions and she has to be beautiful. This being said, I still liked the visual design of this film and the actors were very competent. I would recommend this film on those merits, not the social message being attempted.

  4. Review by Julie Neal for Penelope
    This quirky ugly-duckling fable is ideal to see with your ‘tween- or teen-aged daughter. Its message of self-acceptance is obvious but not heavy handed, and worth talking about afterward. A modern-day fairy tale, the movie begins with the traditional line “Once upon a time…” but soon becomes a twisted take on Beauty and the Beast. In this case, it’s the princess with the curse that turns her ugly. Can she learn to love herself?

    Well of course she can. The journey that pig-nosed heroine Penelope travels is not at all believable, but then again fairy tales rarely are. If you give yourself over to the uplifting moral — that everyone is lovable and interesting BECAUSE of their differences, not in spite of them — then this film is a treat. The energetic cinematography aptly depicts both grime and splendor, the costumes are loaded with detail (I especially loved Penelope’s coat with mismatched buttons) and though the script drags at times, it has many unexpected twists and turns that keep things entertaining.

    Though Christina Ricci does a good job expressing herself behind a snout, the real performance here is that of James McAvoy. Given the task of playing Prince Charming as a washed-up musician with a gambling problem, McAvoy glows with charismatic star power. The shaggy haired, sleepy-eyed actor doesn’t look like your typical leading man, but when he is onscreen the movie hums. Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant also click as the wrong-headed parents, and Peter Dinklage is his usual excellent self as a one-eyed reporter.

  5. Review by H. Vickery for Penelope
    I give 5 stars for the movie and 2 for the DVD. The movie is a fun fantasy type with awesome visuals and great acting. But, I was very disappointed in this DVD version. I had seen a foreign copy of the movie and was looking forward to having my own clear copy. But they cut out some really great scenes (one that my husband and I were especially looking forward to) and then they don’t even have a deleted scenes section! If we hadn’t known what we were missing, I suppose we wouldn’t have been so disappointed. The scene with the reporter and the real Max in jail is shorted (missing a hilarious interaction). A really neat story point at the end where Penelope reconciles with Edward is completely cut. The birds flying out of the house when Penelope’s mom calls after her are cut out (except in the security cameras) – a neat visual. And the scene with the kids at the end is shortened. Those were the scenes that we particularly remember missing, but I think there must have been some other shortened scenes. What a waste of money, the DVD will be just sitting on the shelf while we watch our low res foreign copy.

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