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As the titular Penelope, Christina Ricci sports a Miss Piggy snout, an approachable fairy tale-deformity. But fairy tale conventions also blight this movie's integrity. A shut-in, for fear of terrifying others and traumatizing herself, Penelope knows her appearance is just a curse that can be reversed if she manages to find true love. That same cop-out was used in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which preached that looks don't matter compared to the person inside---so long as nobody in the relationship remains ugly at the end of the movie. Despite a charming moment when Penelope plays a Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired game with her crush (James McAvoy), her disfigurement fails to achieve value as metaphor for adolescent isolation the way Rocky Dennis' in Mask does, or, for that matter, the female subject of Morrissey's disturbing song, "November Spawned A Monster." That's because Penelope is too timid to skewer image-based pressures on girls. The film's vanity undermines any chance of it being heartfelt and intelligent.

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Vol 26, No 26
November 22, 2018

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