Once upon a time, in a land far, far away from self-conscious satire, there lived a girl named Penelope (Christina Ricci). With her moneyed background, good sense of humour and French language skills, Penelope should be a bit of a catch. Sadly, Penelope has a pig snout for a nose, which is getting in the way of her quest for romance. Thanks to an old family curse, her swinish features not only send the boys running, but confine her to dating the landed gentry, as only finding love with ‘one of her own’ will lift the hex. Which is worse – the snout or the suitors? It’s a matter of opinion. Enter handsome opportunist, Max (James McAvoy), who has been paid by paparazzo Lemon (Peter Dinklage) to get a shot of the ‘pig-girl,’ thus setting in motion a narrative in which we learn to accept difference and love ourselves for what we are.
Perhaps unusual for a film with a hook as brash as a pig’s snout, Penelope is characterised by its subtlety, rejecting easy plot turns, Shrek-esque pop culture commentary and, on the whole, bacon gags. Ricci is a competent Penelope, but it is the solid supporting cast that cements the film’s charm – most notably a deliciously hysterical set of parents in Catherine O’Hara and Richard E Grant, and the ever-affable McAvoy. Somehow managing to avoid the extremes of schmaltz and sarcasm that come so easily to the genre, Penelope’s individuality and intelligence make it a bit of a hybrid freak. (Lindsay West)
General release from Fri 1 Feb.