Penelope is a sweet lollipop of a film, a fable told with charm and whimsy. It does get overly saccharine as it goes on, losing its shape and novelty as it clambers towards its (supremely unsurprising, and in many ways disappointing) conclusion.
Christina Ricci plays a girl cursed with an affliction brought about by the actions of many generations ago. Her frantic parents (the supreme Catherine O’Hara, and a poorly uses and inconsistently accented Richard E. Grant) try to do their best for their daughter, but the horror of her visage keeps suitable suitors away.
Fairytales such as this are by their nature derivative and simplistically plotted, so one must simply choose to go along for the ride. For me the film seems to be trying a bit to hard to be charming, without letting genuine chemistry build between the characters. Visually the film is merely average, despite a promising opening sequence. Save Ms. O’Hara’s (with over-the-top mannerisms that befit her character perfectly), the performances are arch to the point of annoyance at times.
Those expecting a modern, witty fairytale like the impeccably scripted and performed Princess Bride will be greatly disappointed, this is a live action Shrek in a contemporary setting without the pop-culture babble. Still, this is a fun, accessible little film that should appeal to many.