Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 2006. Summit Entertainment, Stone Village Pictures, Type A Films, Tatira, Grosvenor Park Media, Zephyr Films. Screenplay by Leslie Caveny. Cinematography by Michel Amathieu. Produced by Jennifer Simpson, Scott Steindorff, Reese Witherspoon. Music by Joby Talbot. Production Design by Amanda McArthur. Costume Design by Jill Taylor. Film Editing by Jon Gregory. Toronto International Film Festival 2006.
Thanks to a curse placed upon her family centuries earlier when an ancestor impregnated and then abandoned a servant girl, young Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born with the face of a pig, including floppy ears and an adorably snouty mouth. Her aristocratic parents (Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant), fearing the worst, hide her away in the attic and bring blue-blood suitors through the house year in and out to see who will break the curse that states that she will be changed back when she is loved by her own kind. It never takes more than a glimpse of her to cause men to run in terror from her home (usually smashing their way out of a window), but thanks to gag orders on these men Penelope remains an unknown secret. That is until a vengeful tabloid photographer (Peter Dinklage) decides to get revenge on the family after having given his eye trying to get a photo of Penelope when she was a baby. He hires an old-money-no-money gambling addict (James McAvoy) to pose as a suitor and try to work his way into Penelope’s life in an effort to get a photo of her. She in turn falls in love with McAvoy and, inspired by the feeling and armed with a cleverly placed scarf, decides to hit the road in search of friendship and adventure. It’s a thoroughly unimportant and shallow film, but movies this bad shouldn’t be this easily fun, particularly when Penelope gets into the wide world and finds that her facial features don’t prevent people from enjoying her company. Co-producer Reese Witherspoon is miscast in a small role as a bike courier, but otherwise the entire roster of actors are perfectly selected, from the hilariously manic O’Hara right down to the wonderful chemistry between the romantic leads. Just don’t expect it to stay with you for long.