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Penelope
3/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mark Palansky
scr Leslie Caveny
with Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Peter Dinklage, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O'Hara, Richard E Grant, Simon Woods, Ronni Ancona, Nigel Havers, Lenny Henry, Nick Frost, Russell Brand
release UK 1.Feb.08, US 29.Feb.08
07/UK Summit 1h33
penelope
ONE WAY MIRROR: Ricci and McAvoy

ricci dinklage o'hara

TORONTO FILM FEST
CANNES FILM FEST

penelope Despite an extremely uneven style, this modern-day fairy tale has plenty of charm, thanks to a snappy script and engaging cast.

Penelope (Ricci) has lived her life locked away from the world. Her parents (O'Hara and Grant) are mortified that she has received the family curse--a pig snout for a nose--and are determined to break it by marrying her to a blueblood. The problem is that none of them can bear the sight of her. Meanwhile, a tenacious paparazzo (Dinklage) has been trying to get a photo of the unseen heiress, and hires a terrified former suitor (Woods) plus down-and-out blueblood Max (McAvoy) to get closer. But of course Max begins to genuinely like Penelope.

The story is actually quite enjoyable, even within the predictable formula of the romantic comedy. Ricci and McAvoy are particularly likeable in the lead roles, while O'Hara and Grant provide the scene-stealing hilarity along with Witherspoon in a spiky side-role as Penelope's first real-world friend. The dialog crackles with wit, and includes quite a few nicely warped moments ("Do you have any other pig parts?" asks a reporter). There's also a ridiculous inversion of the usual sentimental happy-family climax.

Yet while the production design is top-quality, it's also ill-conceived. The film was shot in a very recognisable London, and yet the filmmakers desperately try to create a magical any-city by drastically altering the skylines and having the characters speak with random accents. Both McAvoy and Grant are inexplicably American, which wouldn't be an issue if the setting didn't look and feel so British (including cameos from the likes of Brand, Frost and Henry). And these strange touches, rather than creating an enchanted atmosphere, continually draw attention to themselves.

That said, the story itself is very sweet for this kind of thing. The sets, costumes and make-up are colourfully well-done, while the overall tone is bright and lively, especially when O'Hara is on screen. And even if we never for a second doubt where the plot is going, it's an enjoyable journey getting there. It also helps that the concluding moral is undercut with cheekiness: "Rich people stink!"

cert u themes, innuendo, some violence 29.Jan.08

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2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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