There’s a new genre of film, that of the modern day fairy tale. Films like “Shrek,” “Ella Enchanted” and more recently, “Enchanted” have all attempted to do unique takes of fairy tales. While they’re all worthy of the genre they’ve really all started to meld together. The latest in this string of movies really got short shrift when it came out to theaters and that’s the Reese Witherspoon produced “Penelope.” “Penelope” may not be the best or most unique movie out there but in terms of Disney-like quality and a fun time it more than fits the bill.
Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) should be a happy young woman. Born into wealth and prestige her only goal in life is to find a husband who loves her for who she is. Normally this would be a simple task for a woman of blue-blood except that Penelope suffers from a family curse. Decades before when a member of the Wilhern clan rejected a servant girl a curse was put on that family that the first-born daughter would be disfigured unless a member of her own kind accepts her for who she is. With Penelope as the first born she is left with the nose of a pig and a bunch of shallow suitors who run away at the sight of her until the dishevled Max Campion (James McAvoy) attempts to gain Penelope’s love for some less than reputable purposes.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed “Penelope.” It’s the perfect blend of comedy, romance and fairy-tale whimsy that you tend to see from the Disney company. The movie has some very sweet and heartfelt moments and there are quite a few humorous moments that I didn’t expect. A lot of what makes “Penelope” so cute is the cast. Christina Ricci is the ideal fairy-tale princess as the cursed Penelope. The character is smart, sweet and yearns for independence and Ricci delivers 100%. Her scenes with James McAvoy as also adorable, especially when Penelope attempts to find out what instrument Max plays. This movie came out right around the time McAvoy was promoting “Atonement” and this is a very relaxed character for him. He’s able to deliver the dry and loveable drunk that Max is and his role is very reminisicent of his character in “Starter for 10.” Catherine O’Hara and Richard Grant are hilarious as Penelope’s exasperated parents and O’Hara has a lot of hilarious scenes as the overbearing mother. I also loved Peter Dinklage and Simon Woods as the slimy Lemon and Edward Vanderman respectively, they are the perfect villains.
The only thing I didn’t enjoy is Reese Witherspoon’s role as Annie. She’s on the cover of the box and is heavily hyped but really only has a few minutes in the movie. It’s implied that there’s more to her character than is revealed but her role overall is pretty pointless. Every time she’s on screen I just wondered why she was. The movie is also incredibly predictable and very cutesy to the point on annoyance so don’t expect too much adult content…and by adult I mean over the age of 13.
The bonus material on this is extremely light and I felt the people involved just didn’t care enough to do bonus material for this movie. There is no commentary with any of the cast members and the only making-of feature is “The Making of a Modern Day Fairy Tale.” This ten-minute feature is pretty standard cast and crew interviews about the inspiration for the movie and how it was made. The cast seems to be pretty scripted though and there isn’t anything special here. Other than that the term bonus material is bandied about to everything on this DVD. There is a three minute “sneak peek” at the upcoming film Twilight but this is placed in the beginning with the previews and is easy to miss. I caught it but it was just a few scenes and some interviews with the cast, not worth the price of buying it. There is also a trailer for the film “Fly Me to the Moon” which looks to be the worst movie ever made.
“Penelope” is a cute movie to rent on a Saturday if you have a few hours to wait, you won’t feel like you wasted your money. I give the movie a 3/5 but the DVD with its pathetic extras only gets 2/5.