Once of age, in order to break the curse, Penelope is subjected to a bevy of shallow suitors whom she interviews through a one-way mirror (when she reveals herself, they tend to jump out the nearest window or otherwise run for cover). Penelope's fate appears sealed until a seedy journalist (Peter Dinklage, in another fine performance) bribes a down-on-his-luck gambler (James McAvoy) to woo the poor girl, thereby snagging her photo for his paper. Will the gambler fall for Penelope? Bet on it.
Mr. McAvoy plays the shaggy, raffish card well, but his scenes with Penelope are underwritten. While writer Leslie Caveny's script milks every last ounce out of its premise (sure enough, someone plays "This Little Piggy" with Penny's toes), it fails to create a winning romance between the two leads. And a subplot involving Mr. Dinklage and a sniveling rich-boy is quickly strained. Catherine O'Hara is able to salvage a bit of truth out of the shrill character of Penelope's mom, but sadly Richard E. Grant is given nothing to do as her father.
Holding it all together is Christina Ricci as the title. The frequently challenging actress has seldom been as charming as she is here behind an impressive prosthesis. Like "Edward Scissorhands" (only one of the Tim Burton movies from which this film borrows), Penelope's time in the attic has made her innocent of the ways of the world. In the film's most winning sequence, Penelope wraps her face in a Harry Potter-esque scarf and runs away from home. She stares in awe at window displays, newspaper stands, the city skyline. It's unclear what exactly this character does and doesn't know (she understands credit cards but thinks a group of joggers is chasing after her), but Ms. Ricci's wonderment, expressed solely through her eyes, sells the moment."Penelope" is one of those fairytales about finding your inner beauty. It's produced by Reese Witherspoon, who shows up briefly in a throwaway role as a Vespa-riding free spirit. On the surface, the film has the makings of a clever twist on "Beauty and the Beast". Ironically, it isn't much more than a superficial treatment of the material. Unlike its main character, it's beautiful to look at but there's not much there to love.
|Summary||Less-than-magical fairytale about girl who must find true love in order to break the family curse that left her with the nose of a pig.|