Offbeat romantic comedy is sweet but lightweight.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: February 28, 2008
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

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."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

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?

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:February 28, 2008
DVD release date:July 14, 2008
Cast:Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon
Director:Mark Padansky
Studio:Type A Films
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some innuendo and language.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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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 actually might love her shows up. But he's not rich so he doesn't accept her. He wants her to break the spell and be happy. That to me was so sweet. This guy - James McAvoy - did a great job. Of course it ends with the finally every after but I don't want to expose much for those who haven't seen it. Its like a fairy tale and told like one, so its pretty cool for the whole family. All the actors were great. The worse things they show are gambling and drinking and two kisses. Like if they were a huge factor! Watch this movie its a lot of Fun!
Parent of a 5, 6, and 9 year old Written bymama p December 17, 2010
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written bygeckogirl August 3, 2010
A very good movie! My older sister and I loved it!
What other families should know
Great messages


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