PENELOPE (Mark Palansky). 101 minutes. Opens Friday (February 29). Rating: NN
Why is everybody screaming at the top of their lungs in Penelope? This could have been a gentle fairy tale with a political twist, but it winds up going way over the top.
For every decent ingredient in this stew, another one leaves a bad taste. The boys-can-be-dumb message – except for cutie James McAvoy, guys way overreact to the sight of Penelope, born pig-faced as a result of a family curse – is pretty funny.
But the girl-power message (love who you are), though worthy, is almost a full-blown cliché.
Smart pop culture commentary embedded in the sequence in which Penelope, when discovered, turns into a media darling gets sabotaged by the story’s blatant mother-blaming. I’m not buying the epilogue’s almost post-modern apology for all the mummy-trashing, and it won’t register with the film’s teen audience anyway.
As the girl with the pig face, Christina Ricci lightens up for a change. She’s obviously over her obsession with actively not being a child star and wants to connect with a teen audience. I do shudder to think at how young female fans of the film will react when they rent Buffalo ’66.
Producer Reese Witherspoon, as Penelope’s first best friend, brings some charm to the piece, as does Peter Dinklage as an intrepid photojournalist. Unfortunately Catherine O’Hara, as the poor mother, never stops shrieking.
And my ears are still ringing.