Length: 101 minutes
Director: Mark Palansky
Writers: Leslie Caveny (“Everybody Loves Raymond”; “Mad About You”)
Starring: Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara, Nick Frost, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, Simon Woods
Anytime a movie is delayed for over a year you know you’re more than likely in for a mess. Here comes “Penelope”- Reese Witherspoon’s first film as a producer- finally seeing a U.S. release after a two year delay. The plot concerns a young rich girl named Penelope (Christina Ricci) who is born with the repercussions of the “family curse”. A curse which causes her to have a pig nose. Yep. That’s what the movie is about. You can see why the suits over at the studio didn’t sense box office gold (though somebody green lighted it). Penelope’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant) want to marry her off because it’s the only way to break the “curse” (there’s some “convenient” health concerns that prevent Penelope from having plastic surgery). A tabloid reporter (Station Agent’s Peter Dinklage) hires Max (James McAvoy) to pretend to be a suitor to get a picture. Penelope won’t let Max see her, so he has to court her from behind a mirror. Of course, once Max actually sees Penelope there is a “misunderstanding” and Penelope escapes to go live off in the big city. The movie doesn’t really go anywhere from there. Penelope becomes a pop celebrity and Max tries to win her back (though he takes his time). The movie just isn’t marketable. There isn’t really an audience for this type of movie. It doesn’t have any appeal. The performances are awkward. Ricci plays the title character like she’s ten years old. Witherspoon herself fares the worst as Penelope’s best friend- a “tough as nails” barfly. Her scenes cause some nice unintentional laughter. The worst quality about the movie, though, is it's glaring weakness of not having an interesting story to tell. The pig nose, honestly, doesn’t seem all that outrageous (people scream when they see it and/or jump out of windows). I don’t think the whole world would be very shocked or, for that matter, concerned. It’s like a Google news blurb under the “misc.” category. It’s not whimsical enough (though it wants to be) to really qualify as a quirky comedy and it’s not romantic enough to be a romantic-comedy. I’m not sure who they think they’re going to trick into seeing this by giving it a theatrical run. The plot summary on IMDB wisely omits the character having a “pig nose”- instead pretending to be a romantic-comedy about a young girl finding herself. The ads, too, have Ricci’s nose covered completely. Wouldn’t you be upset if you went to see a movie and it ended up being about a girl with a pig nose? This is an early contender for worst movie of 2008.