“Penelope” – Susan Granger reviews

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Giving a gender tweak to “Beauty and the Beast,” this is a contemporary fable about a princess who is cursed with a pig snout.

Many years ago, a heartless Wilhern aristocrat impregnated a young serving girl. Her mother, a witch, gave the family a curse that the next female child would be born with a deformity – a pig’s snout – that will only disappear when one of her own blue-blooded kind loves her. For generations, there were only sons – until Penelope (Christina Ricci).

When she was born, sleazy tabloid journalists, like Lemon (Peter Dinklage), so hounded the family that her overly protective parents (Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant) faked her death. Sweet-natured porcine Penelope grew up sheltered in an attic bedroom, surrounded by toys. But now she’s of age – and a proper socialite suitor must be found.

One cad (Simon Woods), who escapes before he signs the required confidentiality agreement, babbles about the Miss Piggy encounter which alerts Lemon that Penelope Wilhern is still alive. Together they connive to hire Max (James McAvoy) to pose as a prospective husband and snap a photograph. But while clueless Max is charmed by her, he cannot propose, so Penelope flees into the outside world where she’s befriended by a bike courier, Annie (Reese Witherspoon, also executive producer), and, eventually, decides to go public.

Written by Leslie Caveny and directed by first-time filmmaker Mark Palansky, it’s a whimsical romance. Shedding her usual caustic persona, Christina Ricci cleverly embodies the plucky heroine and Peter Dinklage proves, once again, why he’s one of the best character actors on the screen today. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Penelope” is a plucky 7, as the ugly-duckling fantasy morphs into a satiric take on celebrity culture.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.