Penelope made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. The 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Not a good sign that the movie has languished this long without being released. The story gets better, though: the movie is coming out smack dab in between the most recent projects from its lead actors, one of which was a Best Picture nominee (James McAvoy, Atonement) and the other is one of the summer’s most anticipated movies (Christina Ricci, Speed Racer). Mighty convenient, that timing. The movie surely is a train wreck, right?
Surprisingly, it’s not. While it paints with far too broad a brush and loses its way in the second act, the story at its core is a sweet one, and the two leads, plus some big-time scene stealing by Peter Dinklage, keep the fairy tale just grounded enough for it to work.
Ricci is Penelope Wilhern, a blue-blood aristocrat and victim of a terrible curse. Generations ago, one of her relatives fell in love with, and then broke the heart of, one of the servant girls, whose mother just happened to be the town witch. (Every town had its own witch back then, it appears.) The witch declared that the next daughter born to a Wilhern would have a pig’s nose, so they would know her horror and heartbreak. Only by earning the true love of a blue blood would the curse be broken. Until then, Penelope remains a pig girl.