Dec 2, 2011

[Movies] A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda is one of those comedies that is often referenced in various movie reviews as one of those films that everyone assume's you've seen, at least in my experience. And despite the amazing amount of talent involved in this movie together with two Monty Python alumni, up until recently I hadn't had a chance to watch it.

I can't even remember what prompted me to start thinking about this recently, but I figured it was high time that I rectified things and thus I got around to it. I got a copy of the movie to watch with my partner and one morning we gave it a go.

Despite feeling a wee bit dated, the movie was still pretty funny and I can now safely say that I better appreciate it's appeal. It's more than just another movie with a stellar cast that relies on its actors to sell the movie. Instead, it's a highly entertaining piece with a twisted yet engaging story that happened to have some great talent involved in the production.

A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 comedy directed by Charles Crichton and written by John Cleese. The movie helped Kevin Kline bag as Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

In London, we first meet the gang led by George (Tom Georgeson) who is planning a jewelry heist. Part of the crew for this job include the stuttering animal lover Ken (Michael Palin) and two Americans, Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto (Kevn Kline). The two are in fact lovers, which George isn't aware of since Wanda has charmed him into believing they are brother and sister.

John Cleese
John Cleese (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)
The heist is a big success and they get away with a fair amount of diamonds. And as you could expect from a story like this, Wanda and Otto double-cross George and set him up to take the fall. But it is only after his arrest that they find out that George had moved the diamonds to a new hiding place, one that he's unlikely to reveal under the current circumstances. Thus they decide to have Wanda try to seduce George's lawyer, Archie Leach (John Cleese) in order to discover the new location of the jewels. On the other hand, Ken is tasked with killing the elderly Mrs. Coady (Patricia Hayes), who is the only witness of their crime.

It takes a bit of time before the story and all its characters are properly introduced and firmly established. However once you get past that modest molehill, the rest of the story flows a lot smoother than you'd expect despite the differing personalities in the movie. The action is often fast and fierce, with a variety of witty one-liners and quick sight gags being executed on screen in quick succession. It's the kind of comedy movie that I enjoy most since it requires that you pick up on the subtleties of the actor's efforts and you need a quick mind to figure out all the jokes. Well that and get past the modest accents, if you have that sort of an issue.

I can't really complain about any member of the cast since they were all quite brilliant in their roles. I guess my only lament is that I felt that Michael Palin was a bit underutilized, at least for me. And I understand this may not have worked all that well with the plot itself, but it would have greatly satisfied fellow Monty Python fans such as myself, I guarantee.

And the story is not at all predictable, which is a sad pattern in more recent movies. It combines the best elements of a witty comedy with a crime story and uses both to good effect. The end result is a great story that is unique, creative and delightfully inventive at the same time. And it's funny, too!

A Fish Called Wanda is a great movie, one that I thoroughly enjoyed watching and I regret not having seen it sooner. It rates 4.5 quick switches around Portia Leach out of a possible 5.





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