'Penelope' has a nose for imagination
"Penelope" is a hard movie to find in area theaters this season, but even if you have to wait for DVD, it's worth the effort.
In a season filled with dumbed-down, lazy excuses for movies, "Penelope" is something quite original - a combination of a realistic coming-of-age romance and a bizarre fairy tale.
Christina Ricci plays the title role, a brilliant and very normal young woman who happens to have been born with a pig's snout, thanks to a curse placed upon her blueblood British family.
Reese Witherspoon directs this rich and wimsical romp, and appears in the role of a barfly who befriends Penelope after she flees from her mother who keeps her virtually imprisoned to avoid the tabloid press finding out about her deformity.
The mother, played by Catherine O'Hara, believes that Penelope must marry a society swell in order to break the curse, but a long line of recruited suitors run away as soon as they get a glimpse of our Miss Piggy's prodigious snozz, usually flinging themselves through a high window's glass.
Villains trying to expose Penelope recruit Max (the likeable, disheveled James McAvoy) to pretend to be a potential boyfriend ir order to snap hidden-camera photos of her nose. Max takes the job to pay off his gambling debts, but things get complicated when he finds himself drawn to the girl and her musical genius.
Wrapped in a scarf, Penelope wanders out into the real world, with endearing results.
But the story isn't the star here - it is the beautiful cinematography that makes the outlandish tale seem real.
It combines elements of Old World images with the modern streetscape, both fairy tale and 21st century stylishness in a package that is part "Edward Scissorhands" and part "Shrek" - and all very unusual and entertaining.
While this won't be a classic, it is charming in a quirky way, with a quiet message of self-acceptance in an imperfect world, and it serves as a very good change of pace from the rest of the cookie-cutter fare, comic book stories and endless sequals out there.
* "Penelope", now showing. Rated PG for mild danger moments and innuendo. Run time 103 minutes. Our Score: three stars out of four.