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Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Penelope Movie Poster Image
Offbeat romantic comedy is sweet but lightweight.
  • PG
  • 2008
  • 101 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Men -- and most of society, for that matter -- shun a woman for looking different. A man lies to get the chance to make money to pay gambling debts. A reporter devotes himself to digging up dirt that destroys a family. A main character runs away, hurting those left behind. A mother fixates on her daughter's looks. All of that said, though, the film has lots of heart.


Men are cruel to Penelope when they see her face to face, and a guard has to tackle some of the suitors who run away. Max has a screaming fight with Lemon, who, in an earlier scene, gets injured for being too zealous at his scandal-seeking job.


Lots of romance, but no sex (at least none shown). Some innuendo and kissing.


Rare use of words like "damn" and "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some beer drinking in a bar (Penelope has her first taste and enjoys it) and elsewhere. Incidental smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fairy-tale-like film has a lot of heart. There's not much iffy content (a bit of drinking and innuendo is the bulk of it), and the main character is devoted to discovering her own identity and making peace with her circumstances, though it's sometimes hard for her to overcome her shame. Her parents -- especially her mother -- can't seem to accept her as she is, which could be upsetting for some younger viewers. But in the end (naturally), everything wraps up nicely.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 5, 6, and 9 year old Written bymama p December 17, 2010
Parent of a 7 and 7 year old Written bymotheroftwins2 March 5, 2009

Twisted dark fairytale- horror-"lite" for tweens and up

In the first 10 minutes alone, the mother is horrified and embarrassed about her daughter looks, fakes her daughter's death to get the news cameras away an... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBloody Gorgeous March 10, 2009

Lovable Love Story!

This movie was great! A long time ago there a curse was set on the next baby girl born in the family. Penelope is the first one. After a gazillion guys, one who... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bygeckogirl August 3, 2010
A very good movie! My older sister and I loved it!

What's the story?

Born to a privileged family burdened by a curse, pig-nosed Penelope (Christina Ricci) will only get a human snout when she finds true love with one of her "own kind." Mindful of a scandal, her parents (Richard E. Grant and Catherine O'Hara) fake her death and lock her away until she's grown up, at which point they begin hunting for a suitable -- and, more important, willing -- mate. The "auditions" for a hex-breaking aristocrat begin straight away, but every time Penelope reveals herself, the men run off. One, disgraced after no one believes his tales of a monster on the loose, hires a muckraker named Lemon (Peter Dinklage), who hatches a plan to hire Max Campion (James McAvoy) -- a down-on-his-luck blueblood with a gambling problem -- to snag a picture that will sell lots of tabloids. But Lemon didn't bet on Max having a heart (not to mention a soul); soon, Penelope is unmasked, Max rejects her, and she's left to figure out what how to live happily ever after -- with and without the boy.

Is it any good?

Brimming with style and whimsy, PENELOPE is a traditional fable set in a too-exquisite, retro metropolis. It's genuinely lovely to look at -- even that nose, which doesn't actually seem so bad. But although it's amiable -- aided in part by an appealingly rakish McAvoy and a game, though disconcertingly tame, Ricci -- it's a half-baked soufflé that collapses midway. Despite all of its fairy-tale trappings, it's not really any less predictable than any other mainstream romantic comedy.

The supporting cast is generally strong -- O'Hara is delightfully caustic -- though Reese Witherspoon's cameo turn as an "edgy" messenger Penelope befriends doesn't work because, well, she doesn't believably have an edge. As for the film's central question -- can a sweet girl with a pig's snout find true love with one of "her own"? -- the answer is this: What exactly does "one of her own" really mean?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this movie is like a fairy tale. What does it have in common with more traditional "once upon a time" stories? How is it different? What lesson do Penelope and her family learn from their curse? Are the men's reactions to Penelope understandable or reprehensible? What shapes their expectations of how a woman ought to look?

Movie details

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