Pitching itself as a modern fairytale, Penelope is a whimsical and engaging piece of throwaway entertainment that never quite hits the lofty heights it aims for. A combination of muddled storytelling, inconsistent location details and bizarre accents almost undo a great performance from Ricci in the lead ... almost.
Born into the cursed Wilhem family, Penelope (Ricci) is afflicted with the nose of a pig. Her wealthy parents are initially repulsed but love their daughter very much, and for her own good lock her away from the gaze of the public. As time passes the family learn that the only way to break the curse is for Penelope to get married to someone who loves her. A series of aristocratic suitors are lined up but they all run at the first sight of Penelope, until one day she meets Max, who sticks around. However, unknown to Penelope or her family Max is being paid to take a picture for a tabloid journalist with a grudge. Penelope eventually realises she has to fend for herself and runs away from home only to find celebrity… and with it more trouble.
The main problem with the film is its lack of coherent location… is it a fictional world or the Americanised view of London we often see or a gothic New York reminiscent of Babe: Pig in the City? (I know, I get the irony.) In addition there appears to be an insistence on giving the British cast American accents that appear beyond them ... we know McAvoy can act but maybe not as a yank? Ricci thankfully holds the film together, and the rather obvious message of looking beyond appearances to the person within is handled well by her. There is a charm all of its own to the film, and although never laugh out loud funny (and not really likely to engage the target audience of kids either) it’s a pleasant enough diversion ... if only to see Witherspoon trying to play a "streetwise ruffian"!
EXTRAS * A making-of featurette, the theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.