Let me firmly state that I do believe in curses. In fact, I know that there is one placed upon the relatives of my mom’s side of the family, self sometimes included.
I also believe that once in a blue moon, watching a cute, family film (sans family) about fairy tales, hexes and pigs can be good for the soul.
"Penelope" the fairy tale is about a blue-blooded young heiress named Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) who was born under a curse which can only be broken when she finds a male mate who will love her for all she is worth. (Which money-wise – or pounds-wise as it takes place in London – is millions.) Oh, and the curse specifies she can only fall in love with another blue blood. Even in the land of curses, money is desired.
Because her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Wilhern decided not to marry a servant girl who was pregnant with his child (thus causing her to jump off a cliff), the girl’s witch mother places a curse on the first born daughter of the Wilhern family. In place of the face of an aristocrat, she will have the face of a pig, complete with snout. I personally thought it was cute, but would not desire one. I have enough issues as it is.
For seven years Penelope and her family search for the right lad to come along and break her pig-faced curse. The problem is, when the potential suitors come calling, they take one look at her face and flee in horror. I just love the one gentleman caller, Edward Vanderman Jr. (Simon Woods aka Mr. Bingley of "Pride and Prejudice" (2005) fame. When he goes to the police station to file a report, as he believes she was attacking him when they meet, the press decided he is going mad, especially when he employs a sketch artist and Penelope ends up as a snarling hag, complete with fangs and possibly rabid drool.
To make people think he is sane (insanity is bad for business), he hires news reporter Lemon (Peter Dinkage) to get a photo of her. Lemon, who would give his right eye (literally) for the picture, readily agrees to the job.
From there, we meet the mysterious Maxwell (James McAvoy), the handsome, thieving heir who allegedly gambled away his family’s fortune. Max is hired by Edward and Lemon to snap off a few photos of her while they meet in the courting room via contraption under his armpit.
Is he only in it for the money? Will he be the one to see past the snout and fall in love with her inner beauty? Will the British tabloids get the photo of the presumed deceased Penelope? Due to embarrassment, her mother (Catherine O’Hara) had her declared her legally dead to keep her away from tabloids. But more importantly, will I ever go to the United Kingdom and meet handsome men with lovely accents?
All good questions, but I think the main question of "Penelope" is: Is the curse really about having one person love you for what you are, or is it about learning to love yourself for who you are and who you are not?
I gave this film a C+.
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.