Penelope (Christina Ricci) is a girl with an interesting problem. Generations before, a young woman was slighted by the son of a wealthy family, and her mother, a witch, cast a spell on the household that the first daughter to be born to that family would have the appearance of a pig. For years, only sons were born into the line, but then one day, Penelope came along. With curly ears and a little snout, she was the fulfillment of the curse, which could only be broken when she found someone to love her for herself.
Her mother became obsessed with getting Penelope a husband and brought in every eligible bachelor she could find. They visited with Penelope through a one-way mirror, and if they hit it off, they would then meet her face-to-face. Inevitably, they would run screaming from the house, sometimes throwing themselves out the window in their attempt to get away. Thus, Penelope lived a very lonely life. This really is a shame—she’s funny, compassionate, intelligent, and doesn’t deserve the reactions she’s getting.
When she meets Max (James McAvoy), Penelope thinks maybe she’s found the guy who will break the curse. He accepts her on every level, but says he can’t marry her. Out of all the young men she’s met, he’s the only one she loved. She runs away and starts a life on her own, tired of being hidden away, and wears a scarf across her nose and mouth so no one will see her snout. In the end, the key to solving her mystery lies in a far different path than what she first thought, and we do get our happily ever after.
This is what I might consider a more mature fairy tale. It does have its share of witches and curses and what-have-you, but it contains a more sophisticated storyline and a few moments of innuendo which children won’t notice, but parents will. While I enjoyed the story, I wished those short moments hadn’t been included, being unnecessary as innuendo generally is.
I also thought Penelope made a much cuter pig than she did a person. When wearing her pig snout, the make-up artists spent more time on her hair, eyes and lips as well. After the curse was broken, they didn’t do much for her overall appearance, and she looked a bit pale and unkempt. Sure, she didn’t have a snout any more, but I would have liked them to continue to show how pretty she really is, snout or no snout.
A cute story, a great romance, and just a couple of “hmmm …” moments, “Penelope” is a PG-rated film that parents will want to preview before showing it to their children, but will probably enjoy it for themselves.
Holiday (1938) What's a dreamer to do when he's being forced into a box? Why, he decides to go on a holiday. That's exactly what Cary Grant's character, Johnny Case, does in this classic film. Engaged to marry the charming Julia Seton, Johnny comes to visit her home, only to learn that he's expected to take over the family business, which he definitely does not want to do. When he meets Linda (Katharine Hepburn) Julia's sister, and realizes that she's a free spirit much like himself, there's nothing to be done but to choose the girl who really understands him. While not quite as enjoyable as "Bringing Up Baby," the other film with these two stars that was released the same year, I did find a lot of merit in this comedic film.
Underdog (2007) This film didn't get much attention at the box office, but my kids and I enjoyed it. Jason Lee is the voice of Underdog, a pooch who was given the ability to communicate with humans after spending some time in a research facility. He can also fly and fight crime (I can think of worse side effects). The scientist responsible for this metamorphosis has an evil plot to gentically alter everyone in the city, and only Underdog can save the day ... after helping to heal the rift between the father and son who own him. We gave this one two paws up, although with moments of mild peril, it might be more suited to older children than younger.
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