Movie Night: Penelope

What’s a girl to do if she’s born with a pig’s nose?  If her family has money, that’s some consolation, but Penelope’s family is also very socially conscious, especially her mother: this little girl is not one to show off.  And there’s also the curse, which goes back for generations and has only one cure: if the piggy girl can find true love with someone of her own kind (i.e., social status), the curse will be broken and her nose will shrink to a normal, and very pretty, size.

That’s the setup to Penelope, a PG-rated family film that light-heartedly explores the beauty theme.  The title character has spent her entire life, all 18 years of it, hidden away in her family’s mansion, whiling away the time by designing her own clothes and dream room.  But now it’s time to go about breaking the curse, which means she has to find a suitable suitor willing to marry her.  Because of her fortune, suitors line up, but one look at her face sends them literally screaming for the exits.  All the lads have signed a strict confidentiality pledge if they turn down the marriage deal, but the last one spills the story of Penelope’s hideous face, which no one believes.  To prove his credibility, the young man hires a down-at-heels aristocrat named Max to woo the girl and snap her picture with a hidden camera as soon as she shows herself.

But Penelope is through with suitors and doesn’t show herself to Max until he’s visited her several times.  As they become acquainted through a two-way mirror, through which Penelope can see Max but not vice versa, no viewer will be surprised that they become fond of each other.  But what will happen when he finally sees her face?

It’s not that hideous; after we get used to the pig nose, it’s rather cute.  A little more ugliness would have added some weight and raised the dramatic stakes; as it is, the story wanders off into silliness a couple of times while tension sags.  But if you’ve ever had the challenge of finding a movie everybody will enjoy and no one will take much offense at, Penelope might fill the bill: entertaining, fun to look at, and worth talking about after.  Here are some questions you might talk about:

  • How does Max get to know Penelope, when he can’t see her? How can you tell he likes her?  (Any comparisons to I Peter 1:8?)
  • Why does he refuse to marry her?  (We don’t know at first; the reason is revealed later.)
  • Which characters seem most like real people?
  • The “moral” of Penelope is mostly about self-acceptance.  Is this adequate, or does it fall short?
  • At one point, Penelope tells her mother, “I don’t want a whole new me!  I like myself the way I am!”  What happens after that?  Does this development make sense with what she just said?
  • How is the story of Penelope similar to the story of Beauty and the Beast?  How is it different?

Cautions: Penelope is rated PG for some instances of mild cursing and innuendo; also, Max is a compulsive gambler who drinks too much (but is redeemed by love!)

Redeemed Reader is not affiliated with or endorsing the 2017 Disney live action Beauty and the Beast film. Rather, we are taking this opportunity to examine the traditional fairy tale and its connections to biblical truth and contemporary literature

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Kelley on March 10, 2017 at 5:27 am

    I have heard good things about this movie from another mom of tween and teen daughters. She and her girls love it. We are now considering it for our tween daughter’s upcoming spend-the-night birthday party. (Our original plan was to take the girls to the new Beauty and the Beast.) Thanks for reminding me about Penelope!

    • Janie on March 10, 2017 at 6:27 am

      You’re welcome, Kelley. When I first say it about 10 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how family-friendly it was. Seeing it again last week as a Redeemed Reader reviewer, the few instances of cursing stood out more; also the inference in the prologue that one of the babies in the family line was a product of adultery. But that goes by pretty fast, and what’s left is just fun.

    • Betsy on March 10, 2017 at 7:24 am

      I’ll add, too, Kelley that I just watched this with my tween-aged children, and not only did they thoroughly enjoy it, but one (unprompted) made the connection to Beauty and the Beast!

      • Kelley on March 23, 2017 at 7:13 pm

        Just wanted to let you know that we did watch “Penelope” (although not at the party) with our ten-year-old daughter. It was the perfect pizza and movie night selection for us to enjoy with our precious girl while big brother was away. We were all utterly charmed by it!

        As for the cursing, she’s heard worse from our unbelieving family members and neighbors! And the way adultery is presented in the movie (it’s bad!), led to natural conversation about sin and its consequences.

        Thank you so much for reminding me of this movie. It was really a treat! And thank for all the good work you all do here at Redeemed Reader.

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