A Fish Called Wanda
 

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Charles Crichton
Writers: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Cast:

  • John Cleese — Archie Leach
  • Jamie Lee Curtis — Wanda Gershwitz
  • Kevin Kline — Otto West
  • Michael Palin — Ken Pile
  • Maria Aitken — Wendy Leach
  • Tom Georgeson — Georges Thomason

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: 1988

108 minutes March 2005

  

A Fish Called Wanda is a wonderful comedy. It is one of the rare movies with tight and fast plotting, surprises at every turn, characters who are consistently odd-to-weird, and an onrushing horde of humorous situations and dialogue.

An armed jewel robbery is staged in Britain by Georges Thomason, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, and Jamie Lee Curtis. When Thomason is fingered by others in the gang and captured, John Cleese is assigned to defend him in court. The jailed Thomason is the only one who knows where the fortune in lifted jewels has been hidden. So Jamie Lee Curtis sets out to beguile Cleese to inveigle the valuable secret from him — if Cleese has it.
  

The core of actors in A Fish Called Wanda all turn in star performances. Cleese as the stuffy barrister; Curtis as the American seductress; Kline as the Nietzsche-reading professional gunman; Palin as the stuttering fish hobbyist; Aitken as Cleese's even stuffier but tough wife; and Thomason as the cool robbery mastermind.

All these actors occasionally act against the characterization we've built up for them, surprising us believably, triggering unpredictable confrontations and dust-ups. Kevin Kline's performance ("Don't call me stupid!") is truly memorable.

The dialogue often is hysterically funny, the situations and sight-gags as well. Plot twists and over-the-top characters keep the suspense building, sometimes through awesome anticipation.
  

There are two fish called Wanda. One is on display in Palin's fish tank; the other, Jamie Lee Curtis, is calculatingly but emotionally on display to the men. (There is no nudity, but the film's language may offend tender ears.) Even the fish called Wanda has her part to play in the tank, while in the plot Curtis' slippery evolutions are a joy to watch.

A great treat. Don't tease the fish.

  

  
© 2005 Robert Wilfred Franson


  

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