Movie #57: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)


A tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge, and seafood.

Director: Charles Crichton, John Cleese

Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Tom Georgeson

Americans Wanda (Curtis) and Otto (Kline) team up with George (Georgeson) and Ken (Palin) for an elaborate jewelry heist in London.  Wanda and Otto have portrayed themselves as brother and sister, when in fact they are lovers intent on double-crossing their cross the pond partners and taking the loot for themselves.  In the process they turn George in for the crime.  George, suspecting a double-cross, has moved the stolen goods and confided information related to it in his lawyer, Archie Leach (Cleese).

What follows is an hour and forty minutes of double-crossing, Wanda seducing everyone else involved, and Otto becoming more ridiculous and jealous.  Archie’s marriage falls apart as he falls for Wanda, Ken deals with a massive stutter and continual abuse from Otto.

This film does a good job at blending American and British humor, and the ensemble main cast works well together.  I’ve been a fan of Monty Python for many years, so Cleese and Palin were more enjoyable for me to watch than Curtis and Kline.

Palin definitely carries the comedy load in this film.  His character is given the task of killing the crime’s only eyewitness, an elderly woman who identified George while walking her three dogs.  Ken goes through an excruciatingly painful ordeal as he offs each dog and the witness finally dies of a heart attack.

Ken has a massive stutter, as stated before, and while I found it irritating at times, it still added to his charm.

Kevin Kline received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal as Otto.  I guess I don’t like pseudo-intellectuals, and Kline’s character is so far out there, it’s a major turnoff for me.  I know this kind of role takes a wide range and is definitely out there even for an actor like Kline, but for me it’s just not something I enjoyed.  I suppose it was a weak year for Best Supporting Actor nominees.

Jamie Lee Curtis was charming, and this film was towards what I’d consider the height of her movie career.  She worked well with each person her character seduced and manipulated.  I especially liked her screen time with John Cleese, they just had a good chemistry.

The plot unfolded nicely, though at times I felt like this movie dragged.  Perhaps if they’d removed one aspect of the story to shorten up this film it would’ve been better.

It’s interesting to note that this was Charles Crichton’s final film to direct, and yet he received his first and only Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Writing.

A Fish Called Wanda is one that relies a lot of sight gags and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet the mixing of a wide range of acting and writing talent works well.  I probably won’t see this one again, but you can’t really go wrong with two members of the Monty Python team.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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