Penelope

(2008) ** 1/2 Pg
102 min. Summit Entertainment. Director: Mark Palansky. Cast: Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage.
Penelope, a gender swap on the old Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, casts Christina Ricci as an innerly beautiful rich girl literally cursed with a pig snout. Marriage to "one of her own kind" can remove the curse, which keeps mom (a manically distraught Catherine O'Hara) and dad (Richard E. Grant, underplaying to nice effect) scrambling for blueblooded suitors. But the only man capable of loving her may be an inveterate gambler-slacker (James McAvoy of Atonement). This fable of lookism adopts a wide-angle, design-heavy, creatively cartoony style reminiscent of Tim Burton and Barry Sonnenfeld. Though Penelope's loosey-goosey plotting can be a liability, Mark Palansky's film is amusing enough to be humbly pleasing. Reese Witherspoon turns up in a limited and rather odd supporting role, but it's Peter Dinklage who steals the show as an eye-patched tabloid photographer with a dry, withering wit.
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