Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 — Houston, TX

Vapid Penelope provides timeless empowerment

By Jackie Ammons     3/13/08 7:00pm

Penelope is not practical. She has the face of a beautiful wood nymph and the voice of a fairy, but also the pronounced nose of a pig. She lives in a modern world of high technology subdued by 1950s clothing and milk trucks that hearken back to the early twentieth century. Like its principal character, the movie Penelope is neither practical nor provocative enough for thrill-seeking audiences but is perfect for a quiet, simple afternoon viewing.Afflicted by an ancient family curse, Penelope (Black Snake Moan's Christina Ricci) follows the demands of her aristocratic parents (Monster House's Catherine O'Hara and Corpse Bride's Richard E. Grant) that she cover her pig's nose and ears to hide her secret from the public. Unfortunately, the only way to break the curse and restore her features is to find the one man who will love Penelope for who she is. To discover him, she depends on the help of a sassy new friend (Rendition's Reese Witherspoon), a sensitive musician (Atonement's James McAvoy), a haughty blue blood (Pride and Prejudice's Simon Woods) and a midget reporter (Underdog's Peter Dinklage).

One of the film's interesting assets is its plethora of visual anachronisms. Penelope wears dresses reminiscent of 50 years ago, but her scarf and other accessories are right out of the Gap's latest collection. Her love interest wears an old-fashioned fedora but plays "Ageless Beauty" by Stars. The set also defies time, as Penelope's home looks like an ancient English mansion while the streets resemble a modern-day downtown. Ultimately, these contrasts create a sense of timelessness and allow the viewer to form an unbiased judgment of Penelope's world.

Even more visually stimulating are the actors in Penelope. McAvoy convincingly plays the part of the emotionally unstable musician, and Ricci blossoms out of her childhood roles in Casper and Pumpkin. Even Witherspoon's two-bit appearance as Penelope's uncouth yet thoughtful friend has merit, and she also produces the film.

Each of the characters acts as a moral guide for the audience, whether the faithful friend, the insightful philosopher or the confident young woman. While the movie's moral lessons are rather corny, their straightforwardness proves to be a charming touch. Penelope's be-true-to-yourself tune is pleasant in a culture constantly attacked by the media's designations of "what's hot and what's not." Such simplistic messages slow down the plot to an enjoyably rhythmic pace.

One downside to Penelope is that the film expects the audience to personally connect and empathize with Penelope too quickly before they really get to know her. While one obstacle in the way of the audience's sympathy may be the fact that having a pig's nose and ears is rather ridiculous, it is also hard for the audience to grasp how socially tortured Penelope feels in the face of her cute physical appearance and upbeat personality.

Ultimately, Penelope is a pleasant movie to watch on a rainy day. It makes no intellectual demands, and it tells a charming tale. Thrill-seekers and action addicts will fail to find satisfaction in Penelope, but this enjoyably corny yet aesthetically stimulating film is rewarding in its simplicity.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 3/22/23 5:14pm
Review: 'READY TO BE' captures TWICE's upbeat energy

 On “READY TO BE,” TWICE returns with a record-breaking set of infectious and danceable tracks sure to delight their fans. TWICE is one of the K-pop groups that has had substantial crossover success in the United States, selling out arenas across the country last year. TWICE features nine members: Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu, all of whom shine throughout the album’s bouncy and energetic production.

NEWS 3/21/23 10:39pm
Muslim students and H&D prepare for Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this week, falling between March 22 to April 20 this year, overlapping with events such as Beer Bike and the end of the semester. Observers fast from dawn until dusk, which is approximately 13 hours in Houston, to practice spiritual devotedness.

NEWS 3/21/23 10:38pm
Beer Bike to divide races amid safety concerns

Beer Bike races will be held in two heats this year, instead of the traditional singular race, according to Anne Wang, a campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator. The change is in light of last year’s crash during the women’s race, which injured three bikers and sent one to the hospital.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.