For a pitch of twenty five words or less you could do a lot worse than, "A girl is born cursed with the face of a pig. Only when she finds true love will the curse be lifted." With Christina Ricci playing the little piggy and James McAvoy as the one man who may look beyond her snout there is a real potential for something sweet in the reverse Beauty and the Beast set up.
Unfortunately thanks to some dire choices made by the writer, the director, the crew and nearly all the cast it starts turning sour before the end of Reel 1. And by the end of the film you leave with a step by step guide as to how to ruin a half decent concept. So the film makers of Penelope if you're listening, I know you are, here's some tips to stop me wanting to feed your corpses to wild boars.
1. Decide when and where your movie is set and tell the audience. Is it America? Possibly because the very British Richard E. Grant, Nick Frost and James McAvoy spend their screentime trying, and failing, to sound Yank enough. But then the blue blood aristocracy thread (Nigel Havers et al) and location seems to suggest England. But maybe its a make believe land which would keep with the fairytale element. So why have the British actors playing American in the first place?!
2. Using Voiceover and Spinning newspapers to tell your story is lazy. I'm not going all Robert McKee in Adaptation here as Voiceover can be witty, unique, even essential. Here it isn't any of them.
3.Don't take camera work tips from Battlefield Earth. The 'third tripod leg lowering' technique to make everything a bit wonky needs to be used for a reason.
4. Employ actors. Don't hire second rate impressionists (Ronni Ancona) and unfunny comics (Lenny Henry!!!). Or in the case of Russell Brand both. Is there really such a shortage of talented actors in need of work?
5. And finally, if you need a scene asking children what the point of the movie was. Then you've missed it.