A Fish Called Wanda (1988) (R)













Riding on the seeming never ending success of Monty Python, John Cleese brings us a twist of a crime drama that can't make up its mind whether its a comedy, thriller, or romance.
"A Fish Called Wanda" is set in England. A group of thieves—Wanda, the ring leader; George, the man with the money; Otto, the crazy weapon's man; and Ken, a versatile, stammering animal lover who is the driver—decide to rob a bank and steal a load of diamonds worth a lot of money.
Most noticeably as a loud character, Kevin Kline plays Otto who seems to be bipolar. He is a Buddhist and a reader of Nietzsche, and an obvious spoof of the stereotypical American. He was in the CIA and he's irreversible stupid.
Wanda (a very young Jamie Lee Curtis) is the most cunning of any of the members of the rag-tag group of criminals. She knows her appeal and she uses it to her advantage while still remaining fresh and sassy.
Ken (Michael Palin) is the weakest criminal of all of them for his morals. It's impossible for him to hurt a fly, so naturally the script has him doing the most amount of damage to little furry animals. Michael Palin toes the line between offensive and funny with his stammering, which was a typical source of humor for many older movies. But Palin does a very good job with it, not making it sound forced. It's unfortunate that he got out shined by his mad co-star Kevin Kline.
Then there is the unfortunate soul who ends up as the receiver of everyone's clumsy charades: Archie. He's a lawyer who accidentally gets mixed up in the wrong business. John Cleese wrote himself this part and one can definitely see why. He knows his limitations as a comedy star and he plays to them, who doesn't? He's always extremely nervous and frightened while trying to be an impassioned lover which ends up making everyone (sometimes even the audience) feel awkward.
The jokes are tried and true as is the plot. It's been done before, hundreds of times. From "The Italian Job" to "Ocean's Eleven", this kind of movie seems to always be entertaining. But "A Fish Called Wanda" seems to pull it off with more ease than its contemporaries and here's why: you really can't say how it will end. The plot twists and turns so rapidly and so randomly (much like a Monty Python skit) that it's impossible to say how it will end.
Charles Crichton directs this film with Cleese at the script and they love to poke fun at everyone. From the British themselves to Americans (obviously) and to the legal system; they're very sly with how they make fun of people.
Kevin Kline steals the show as an incredibly annoying character that is impossible not to hate to love.
Though "A Fish Called Wanda" is funny at times and enjoyable the whole way through, it's not original enough to be astonishing.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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