Netflix UK film review: Penelope
Romance and/or comedy1
Ivan Radford | On 03, Nov 2015
Director: Mark Palansky
Cast: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Richard E Grant, Catherine O’Hara
Watch Penelope online in the UK: Netflix UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Take the mum from Home Alone, sprinkle her eggs with Withnail and voila, the perfect offspring, right? Far from it. Unless you wanted a pig for a daughter. Yes, somewhere in this concoction of chromosomes, a wire got crossed. The result? Christina Pig-Ricci.
To sum up the back story, Penelope’s (Ricci) rich family got cursed by a witch – although why a porky proboscis is the ultimate curse is beyond explanation. The only way to break this spell? For the poor little girl to be loved by one of her own kind. Cue much hilarity as terrified blue-bloods jump out of windows to escape Miss Piggy. (A shame they didn’t ask David Cameron, really.)
Then, after even Mr Bingley bottles it, along comes James McAvoy. He plays poker with Edgar Wright – a surprise cameo – and loses. Badly. Then, he takes money from a journalist (Peter Dinklage) to snap a photo of Penelope. But while he tries to win her heart, he falls in love for real – shock, horror. And so, when it turns out that he’s not really a blue-blood at all, Penny has a problem.
Billed as a modern fairy tale with a twist, the message of the image-conscious Penelope seems to be love yourself, screw Prince Charming. While this is a commendable departure from the traditional Disney narrative, the rom-com’s dramatic premise yields little comedy, romance or drama – a fact that’s emphasised by the way we get distracted by James McAvoy every time his turns up on screen. (Did we mention that he has a floppy fringe and stubble? Phwoar.) Poorly playing musical instruments with enthusiastic abandon, he lights up the frame whenever in shot. Otherwise, this quaint piece remains sadly unengaging and distinctly average. If a different part of Penelope’s head were afflicted, you could almost say they made a pig’s ear of it.
Penelope is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.