Remember that maxim about life imitating art? Mark Palansky’s feature debut about a young blue-blood woman (Ricci) who—thanks to an old family mishap—was born with a pig’s snout has followed a similar trajectory to that of its titular character. Like its hog-nosed heroine, the film was shoved into the attic by parental units (its joint distributors, the Weinstein Company and IFC, eventually let the producers shop it elsewhere). Each respective ugly duckling needed someone to rescue them and reveal their inner swans. Here’s where life and art start to go their separate ways. Thanks to James McAvoy’s adorably scruffy Prince Charming, Ricci’s character eventually gets over her condition and an inner beauty is revealed. The much-postponed movie, however, isn’t so lucky. Its exile can actually be justified; this fairy tale is a genuine freight-train wreck.
Straining to achieve what little whimsy it can muster, Penelope manages to screw up the oldest bedtime story in the book. Neither a talented cast nor the film’s Gaudi-like version of London’s urban landscapes can make up for schizophrenic pacing and inexplicable phenomena: Why do some of the British actors speak with flat Midwestern accents? What movie did Reese Witherspoon’s punky-sidekick role wander in from? Why are we the ones who feel cursed?