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Mark Palansky
Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, Simon Woods, Ronni Ancona
Writing Credits:
Leslie Caveny

A fairytale like no other.

Christina Ricci stars as Penelope, a lonely heiress who has spent her entire life trying to break a strange family curse that left her with the nose of a pig. When she meets a charming aristocrat (James McAvoy) who seems to see beyond her physical appearance, Penelope begins to learn that loving herself is more important than breaking the curse. Also starring Reese Witherspoon and Catherine O'Hara, Penelope is a delightful modern-day fairy tale for the entire family.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$3.802 million on 1196 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.011 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $25.99
Release Date: 7/15/2008

• “The Making of a Modern Day Tale” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Penelope (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 11, 2008)

With 2008’s Penelope, we get a new fairy tale that doesn’t come taken from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. Christina Ricci plays the title character, an heiress with a problem. An old curse left her physically deformed: instead of a normal face, she boasts the attributes of a pig.

Needless to say, this doesn’t endear her to the opposite sex, so she lives a lonely existence. Only true love can break the curse and restore Penelope’s appearance to normal. In this life steps Max Campion (James McAvoy), a likable aristocrat in the midst of hard times. He blew the family fortune and needs some bucks, which is why he agrees to court Penelope for journalist Lemon (Peter Dinklage), a photographer who’s denying for a shot of Penelope.

Lemon sends in Max to get a photo, but in a twist, Penelope won’t immediately reveal herself to him. Instead, she chats with Max via a one-way mirror, and the two bond. Or so it seems. Is Max falling for Penelope or is he just using her for the money? When she escapes her home, what adventures will await her?

And when we find out, will we care? Not really. Although Penelope offers an original tale, it doesn’t take much to see its influences. The film clearly provides a twist on Beauty and the Beast, and that side of things offers some potentially interesting threads.

Virtually none of which receive exploration here. The Penelope/Max romantic thread takes a powder not long after it starts, and then the movie explores a mix of story lines. We follow Edward’s endeavors as well as Lemon’s pursuit of Penelope, the attempt at redemption for disgraced aristocrat Edward (Simon Woods), Penelope’s attempts at independence, and about 15 other minor tales.

All of that renders Penelope barely coherent. Any one – or maybe two – of those stories might have been sufficient for an entertaining movie, but so many tales mars the whole package. None of them receive enough detail or depth, so they lack impact.

This means Penelope turns into a rambling mess that even a talented cast can’t redeem. In addition to Ricci, Dinklage and the ubiquitous McAvoy – who seems to appear in 90 percent of all movies these days -–we get Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, and Reese Witherspoon. (She plays a small role but appears because she’s a co-producer and obviously decided to add her star power to the project.)

Despite that cast, very little about the film entertains. The basic “beauty and the beast” plot had decent potential, but the film can’t leave well enough alone. It goes down so many paths – and chooses so many idiotic, nonsensical options - that it doesn’t satisfy any of them.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Penelope appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Despite a few concerns, the presentation usually looked good.

Sharpness demonstrated the majority of the minor distractions. I noticed occasional examples of edge haloes, and those made the image a bit soft at times. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick was crisp and well-defined. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws remained absent.

The flick’s palette varied dependent on situation. When the film displayed Penelope in a good place, it went with warm hues, while more problematic scenes veered toward colder, more desaturated tones. The colors stayed consistently solid throughout the film. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows demonstrated nice delineation. The occasional softness knocked my rating down to a “B”, but most of the transfer satisfied.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Penelope, it offered a decent affair. Not much arose from the soundscape. Music showed good stereo imaging, and effects opened up the spectrum to a modest degree. While they offered decent ambience, I’d be hard-pressed to mention anything memorable. The track gave us fair environmental material but not much more.

At least audio quality seemed solid. Speech was consistently natural and warm, without edginess or other flaws. Music sounded vivid and lively, while effects were concise and accurate. No flaws materialized, but the track seemed too ordinary for anything above a “B-“.

Only some minor extras fill out the disc. The Making of a Modern Day Tale goes for nine minutes, 29 seconds as it mixes shots from the set, movie clips and comments from actor/producer Reese Witherspoon, writer Leslie Caveny, director Mark Palansky, producers Scott Steindorff, Dylan Russell and Jennifer Simpson, special makeup effects artist Scott Stoddard, costume designer Jill Taylor, location manager Pat Karam, and actors Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Richard E. Grant, and Peter Dinklage. The show looks at the story and its path to the screen, cast, characters and performances, the pig nose makeup, sets and visual design, costumes, and general thoughts. A few decent notes show up here, but the program is too short and superficial to offer much depth. A few ads start the DVD. We get promos for Twilight and Fly Me to the Moon. Both of these also appear in the disc’s “Special Features” area. No trailer for Penelope appears here.

If you want a clever new twist on old fairy tale notions, you’ll not get that from Penelope. The movie indulges in rambling storytelling that fails to explore its themes well – or to entertain, for that matter. The DVD provides decent picture and audio but skimps on extras. I can’t recommend this forgettable flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2142 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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