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Penelope (2006)

DVD Cover (Summit Entertainment)
Genres:
Comedy, Fantasy Comedy, Romantic Comedy
Director:
Mark Palansky Mark Palansky
Starring:
Richard E. Grant Richard E. Grant
Catherine O'Hara Catherine O'Hara
Nick Prideaux Nick Prideaux
Michael Feast Michael Feast
Christina Ricci Christina Ricci

6.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: June 14, 2010
Considering Penelope stars one Christina Ricci, I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that I would see it eventually, even if the genre is not my usual cup of tea. What is fairly surprising is the fact that I liked it as much as I did.

Way back in the day, a noble blueblood fell in love with one of his servants. Upon telling his family that they plan to wed, they laugh in his face and guide him to a more appropriate bride. Meanwhile, the heartbroken girl throws herself off a cliff. In a fit of rage, the girl's mother, who just so happens to be a witch, curses the Wilhelm family, stating the next girl will be born with the features of a pig, and will remain that way until one of her own kind falls in love with her. As it turned out, the Wilhelm wives birthed only boys for the next five generations, until Penelope is born. Her parents do their best to keep her away from the prying eyes of the media, but when a tabloid reporter catches a glimpse, thought not a picture, of the girl, they fake her death to keep the questions at bay. A logical course of action. At any rate, as Penelope grows into a woman, her mother is obsessed with finding her a groom. Typically this involves the man catching one look at the poor girl, jumping through the window, and running for their lives before the butler chases him down, tackles the would-be groom, and forces him to sign a gag order. That is, until Edward Venderman is able to outrun the butler, and tells the police about the "monster girl". Naturally, the story nets him a night in a cell and the tabloids going crazy over this celebrity's mental state; but it also catches the attention of Lemon, the reporter who caught that small sight of Penelope so long ago. Likewise, he also lost his reputation, and an eye, to that chance encounter, so the two set out to prove their claims correct. In order to pull their plan off, they enlist Max Campion, a down on his luck blueblood that bled his wealth away on a gambling addiction; for a healthy financial reward, he introduces himself to the girl so he can snag a picture with a hidden camera. Their scheme doesn't quite go according to plan when Max is seemingly able to see past her face, but the man has his own share of secrets.

While at first glance this may seem like every other romantic comedy ever released, and while technically, it pretty much is, there is a healthy dose of black comedy injected to keep things interesting. Especially from our leading lady. Obviously, having guys running for the hills at the very sight of your face day in and day out is going to play hell on your self esteem, and Penelope has developed a finely tuned sense of sarcasm to mask her depression. Her mother's unwavering obsession with fixing her face only exacerbates it. Likewise, the story itself is absolutely dripping with this off-color humor; I mean, watching some overly preppy snob jump through a window and get run down by a butler wearing bright red sneakers is funny as hell. Plus, the romantic angle is definitely not the main focus on the story. In truth, most of Penelope's external relationships, including Max, her mother, and Annie (Reese Witherspoon's character, a role that is actually a lot smaller than the ads would have you believe) take a backseat to Penelope learning to accept herself.

Further solidifying my unexpected enjoyment of this movie is the performances delivered by our assembled cast. Leading lady Christina Ricci gives an amazing performance through the rollercoaster of emotions Penelope has to deal with: masking her depression with a bitter sarcasm, yet still undeniably filled with hope at every new guy that comes calling. Same goes with Peter Dinklage, who handled Lemon's various changes throughout the film beautifully. Albeit in a much simpler role, Simon Woods also shines as Edward; his over-the-top reactions toward Penelope had me laughing out loud more than once. Truly stealing every scene she was in, however, was Catherine O'Hara as Penelope's mother. The woman is absolutely nuts from start to finish, and O'Hara was more than up to the task of handling her manic personality.

In the end, we have quite the enjoyable black romantic comedy, which is always a nice mixture. And if you're still not sold, realize that this is a movie featuring a midget with an eye patch. Pure gold. 7/10.
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AttnDefDis #1: AttnDefDis - added 06/14/2010, 07:14 PM
It's always nice to see a movie of a non-horror genre reviewed on this site. Especially, one that I enjoy so much. I agree, it is "pure gold". The casting, the cinematography and the writing are all brilliant. My only regret is that Reese Witherspoon didn't have a bigger role. I loved her as the quirky sidekick. This was my introduction to James McAvoy and then almost immediately, I saw him in "Wanted". I didn't even recognize him as the same guy. Christina Ricci is great as always and yes, let's not forget Catherine O'Hara. As you said, she steals every scene and as much as I like her, I always like her best in these roles. Like, Delia Deitz in Beetlejuice. Seriously, good movie.
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