A Fish Called Wanda

1988, Movie, R, 108 mins

Review

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Combining the talents of Monty Python stalwart John Cleese and Ealing Studios veteran Charles Crichton (THE LAVENDER HILL MOB, THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT), this hilariously offbeat post-caper comedy benefits from two of British film comedy's most accomplished traditions.

Cleese, who wrote the screenplay, stars as Archie Leach, an emotionally and sexually repressed English barrister whose life is thrown into upheaval by the appearance of Wanda--not the fish of the title, but a sexy American thief played by Jamie Lee Curtis. She and her gang--Cockney tough guy George (Tom Georgeson), stuttering animal rights advocate, Ken (Michael Palin), and ex-CIA assassin, Otto (Kevin Kline)--pull off a well-executed jewel heist but in the thieves' subsequent rush to double-cross one another and grab all the loot, George ends up in jail and the booty hidden in a safety deposit box, the location of which is known only to him. Deciding that the best way to learn the whereabouts of the jewels is through George's barrister (Cleese), Wanda sets out to seduce the information out of him.

With British-American culture clash as its dominant theme, A FISH CALLED WANDA bristles with wit, enlivened by delightfully over-the-top ensemble acting. Cleese's screenplay uses a farcical framework to send up both British inhibition and formality and American intuitiveness and lack of sophistication. Although filled with clever twists and double-crosses, the film's storyline is less important than the opportunities it gives the actors to exploit their goofy characterizations, especially in the case of Kline who won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his outlandish performance. leave a comment

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