Movie Review: Penelope (with Christina Ricci)


I am a delighted connoisseur of childrens’ movies.  See previous post on how Beauty and the Beast makes me break out in the kind of tears I usually reserve for 75% off  sales.  But you know, lately, there just are not a lot of live-action movies for children out.   Sure, there’s Wall-E and Finding Nemo, but what about with live actors? How am I supposed to relate to a talking fish who not only can swim better than me, but also is friends with Ellen DeGeneres?   Let me rephrase that.  There are not a lot of GOOD movies for kids out.  High School Musical does not count.  Yes, I saw it.  You know why it sucks? Here you go.

I finally came across a quality movie when I saw Penelope.

Penelope is a normal girl, (played by the beautiful, talented Christina Ricci) except for the fact that she has a pig snout:

penelope

Quarantined for swine flu

Through a curse placed on her through her great-great-great-great grandfather, she is doomed to have the snout until she finds “one of her own kind”, meaning a blueblood like herself, to accept her for who she is.   The movie follows her journey through having a snout and her mother trying to hide her from the world, as well as finding a suitor who will like her and turn her into a normal girl.

There are several things I really, really like about the movie, which you can see from the very beginning [I am a delighted connoisseur of childrens’ movies.  See previous post on how Beauty and the Beast makes me break out in the kind of tears I usually reserve for 75% off  sales.  But you know, lately, there just are not a lot of live-action movies for children out.   Sure, there’s Wall-E and Finding Nemo, but what about with live actors? How am I supposed to relate to a talking fish who not only can swim better than me, but also is friends with Ellen DeGeneres?   Let me rephrase that.  There are not a lot of GOOD movies for kids out.  High School Musical does not count.  Yes, I saw it.  You know why it sucks? Here you go.

I finally came across a quality movie when I saw Penelope.

Penelope is a normal girl, (played by the beautiful, talented Christina Ricci) except for the fact that she has a pig snout:

penelope

Quarantined for swine flu

Through a curse placed on her through her great-great-great-great grandfather, she is doomed to have the snout until she finds “one of her own kind”, meaning a blueblood like herself, to accept her for who she is.   The movie follows her journey through having a snout and her mother trying to hide her from the world, as well as finding a suitor who will like her and turn her into a normal girl.

There are several things I really, really like about the movie, which you can see from the very beginning](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t64Pvxh20nQ)

First is its whimsical nature, which is like other movies that Christina Ricci has starred in, including The Addams Family and Casper. The soundtrack is a lot like the narration in Desperate Housewives: reflective, and a bit cheeky, while at the same time extremely gentle.  It speaks to kids in an adult tone, while at the same time not going over their heads or losing speed.  I really like that it doesn’t censor anything, including how the maid that Penelope’s great-great-great grandfather didn’t marry (thus causing the curse) falls to her death. What else is not dulled down are the fact that Penelope’s suitors outright think she’s ugly and run screaming away, instead of being politically correct, as is often the trend these days.

I also love the mood and setting the movie creates.  Although it was filmed in London, it has both British and American elements combined, making the city out to be a make-believe fantasy metropolis, which creates a dreamy setting.  I don’t know too many movies that blur the lines between reality and set location, except for maybe The 10th Kingdom (I could write a whole book about how awesome this series is.)  Even though it looks like a small European city in the beginning, it also has huge skyscrapers and also Penelope’s mansion is near the woods, making location impossible to discern.  All the diners and casinos are also dreamy, not quite steeped in reality, but not completely fairy tale, either.

And third, I obviously love the message that the movie gives to little girls, including the fact that sometimes parents can be wrong, despite their best intentions.  I can’t give away the message because that would be giving away the movie, but needless to say, all the right things happen in the end, and Penelope can be looked to as a heroine.  Additionally, Penelope is also SMART.  Really smart.  Like, she wants to be a horticulturalist when she grows up, loves to play chess and knows specific chess moves, and is an avid reader.  This is a role model girls can really look up to.  Hell, I want to be Penelope.

I had to describe the movie in one word,  it would be smart.  It is a smart movie in that I think 7-8 year olds would get as much pleasure out of it as I did.  And that, really, is the metric of a good kids’ movie. That not only children, but completely grown 22 year old women with jobs and husbands can watch. Moviemakers, please make your children-oriented films on this metric from now on.