Penelope (2006) starring Christina Ricci, Catherine O'Hara, Richard E. Grant, James McAvoy, Peter Dinklage, Reese Witherspoon, Ronni Ancona directed by Mark Palansky Movie Review

Penelope (2006)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Christina Ricci as Penelope Wilhern in Penelope (2006)

Penelope in the City

"Penelope", a modern fairytale charmed and frustrated me equally, it delighted and annoyed but the overall feeling is that I'm glad I watched it. To elaborate, "Penelope" is not the most original of movies, a romantic fairytale which is a twist on the beauty and the beast idea with a curse meaning that a young woman has grown up with a pig snout for a nose. But in evolving this into something more than just a simple twist on a fairytale Leslie Caveny's story has numerous elements and characters and it ends up that there is so much going on it makes your head spin. It is because of that it left me frustrated and annoyed as it became too much for the movie which has one of the most charming and beautiful performances I have ever seen with Christina Ricci melting even the coldest of hearts with her vulnerability.

Thanks to a curse put on the Wilhern family when her great-grandfather left a maid heartbroken, Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci - Sleepy Hollow) was born with a snout for a nose and only when she finds true love with one of her own will the curse be lifted. After years of her mother desperately trying to hide the truth about Penelope's pig nose from the world Penelope now has to deal with a string of blind dates all which are absolute failures as men run at the sight of her. But Lemon (Peter Dinklage), a tabloid journalist is determined to get a picture of the pig faced Penelope persuades gambler Max (James McAvoy - Wimbledon) to go on one of these blind dates to try and sneak a picture of her.

James McAvoy as Max in Penelope (2006)

Do you know what I have barely scratched the surface of what goes on in "Penelope" and for a movie which is 104 minutes long there is far too much go on. The trouble is that we have a basic fairytale of beauty and the beast where a curse needs to be lifted via true love and in order to make it different the focus is on lots of different elements. We get the history of the curse, Penelope's mother's desperate attempts to hide her from the world as a child, the blind dates, the blue blood Edward who flips out when he sees Penelope and her snout, the gambler Max, the friendship with delivery girl Annie and a heck of a lot more. All of which is really good, every single element is well thought out and fun but for me there are just too many for this one movie which right up till the end is still throwing embellishments at us. It's not so much that it makes it confusing to follow but it makes your head spin with so much going on.

What this also means is that the message to "Penelope" becomes lost in the melee of elements till eventually, well in fact a little while before the end, it resurfaces in a fantasy moment. Now the message of "Penelope" or at least the very obvious message is a good one but because it suddenly gets brought up rather than more gradually revealed is a shame and it is because there is so much going on that it forces it.

Now one thing which is certainly perfect about "Penelope" is Christina Ricci who as I already said delivers a performance which would melt the coldest of hearts. Now not only does she still look beautiful whilst rocking a pig snout she also gets across the sadness and vulnerability of her character. Watching Penelope not only have to put up with the humiliating dates set up by her mother but also the persistent pushiness of her makes you feel for her and it is not some cutesy sense of feeling but a real sense of understanding her sadness.

In fact it is Christina Ricci's performance which makes "Penelope" so watchable although both Catherine O'Hara and James McAvoy amongst many others put in entertaining performances. But that in a way is another problem because watching you suddenly get Lenny Henry as a detective, Russell Brand as a club owner, Nick frost as a gambler and there are all these recognizable faces that it just adds to the feeling of being a bit of a melee.

What this all boils down to is that "Penelope" stole my heart, I loved the way an old fairytale was updated and the performance from Christina Ricci was exceptional. But at the same time it frustrated me because there is too much going on and with lots of recognizable cameos it makes your head spin.