A pregnant servant woman named Clara commits suicide after the family of a wealthy socialite, Ralph Wilhern, disapproved of their marriage. In revenge, Clara’s witch mother cursed the next Wilhern daughter to be born with the face of a pig. The curse can only be lifted when “one of her own kind” learns to love her. Five generations later, Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born as the first true-blooded pig-faced daughter. To prevent publicity of Penelope’s face, her mother Jessica (Catherine O’Hara) faked her daughter’s death and shut her away in their mansion. When Penelope turned 18, her parents interpret the curse’s counter as the love of a man of similar social status.
For the next seven years, Penelope and her family go through several possible suitors, but all of them flee in terror, including Edward Humphrey Vanderman III (Simon Woods). He works with tabloid reporter Lemon (Peter Dinklage) to photograph Penelope’s face. They pay the young blue blood Max Campion (James McAvoy) to pose as a new suitor for Penelope, hiding a camera in his jacket. After having conversations with Penelope through a one-way mirror, Max and Penelope develop genuine feelings for each other; however, when Max sees her face, he is shocked (but not frightened) and accidentally triggers the camera. Regretful about his attempts to exploit Penelope, Max calls off his agreement with Lemon and Vanderman (though Jessica and matchmaker Wanda catch him doing so) and destroys the camera.
Inspired by Max’s conversations about the outside world, Penelope flees home and journeys out into the city, selling photos of herself to Lemon to prove her existence to the world while using a scarf to cover her nose to keep anonymous. She is spotted by her parents and runs back to the bar she frequents, subsequently passing out, leading her friend Annie (Reese Witherspoon) to remove Penelope’s scarf and reveal her as the elusive Penelope to the other guests. Penelope becomes an overnight celebrity, gaining adoring fans who are not disgusted by her face.
Meanwhile, Vanderman’s father, having seen the public’s fondness for Penelope and embarrassed by his son’s vocal cruelty toward her, coerces Edward into proposing to her. Lemon eventually discovers that the man he and Vanderman recruited to photograph Penelope is not Max Campion, but actually Johnny Martin, after the real Campion (Nick Frost) is imprisoned for armed robbery. Lemon conveys Johnny’s true identity and feelings for Penelope to Jessica and Wanda, but they choose not to let Penelope know. During the wedding ceremony, Penelope realizes that she does not want to marry simply to break the curse, despite her mother’s wishes; she reasons that she likes herself the way she is. This breaks the curse, as Penelope has been loved by “one of her own kind” – herself – and her pig snout and ears disappear.
Penelope moves on and becomes an elementary school horticulture teacher, and the public’s interest in her dissipates. She eventually learns from Wanda the truth about “Max Campion” / Johnny Martin. She reunites with Johnny, who is still unaware the curse was broken, at a Halloween party while wearing a pig mask. After an awkward reunion between the two, Johnny kisses Penelope. Penelope then takes off her mask and reveals she had the power to lift the curse all along, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Jake, the Wilhern butler, is also revealed to be Clara’s witch mother who cast the original curse. He then curses Jessica mute for how she treated Penelope. Lemon is also seen discreetly watching Johnny and Penelope at a park and is tempted to take a photo of them to prove that Penelope’s curse has been lifted. He ultimately decides against it.
Another great movie for older kids that deals with acceptance. A great watch for the whole family.