A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

reviewed by
Mark R. Leeper

                             A FISH CALLED WANDA
                       A film review by Mark R. Leeper
                        Copyright 1988 Mark R. Leeper

Capsule review: Very funny, well-written crime story/comedy combines the story-telling of the old Ealing comedies with the pace and outrageousness of FAWLTY TOWERS. This film makes one long for the days of better films by better writers. We don't see many like this any more. Rating: high +2.

I got complaints recently on my review of MIDNIGHT RUN. I only mildly liked a comedy-adventure in which you got to know somewhat two conflicting character types, set on the background of a sort of race across country that included cars chasing cars, helicopters cars, and double crosses. Now, eight days later, I see an English comedy-adventure, A FISH CALLED WANDA. It too has chases, conflicting personalities, and double crosses, but the poor British cannot afford to blow up helicopters and crash cars, so they economize by getting good writers who can really write dialogue and create characters, and at the same time be funny and tell a good story that keeps an audience guessing how things are all going to turn out. In short, A FISH CALLED WANDA is not only a film that does things right, it is a film that does some things astoundingly right.

The film begins with a mismatched set of crooks pulling off a jewel heist. There are two English brothers (played by Michael Palin and Tom Georgeson) and an American brother and sister, Otto and Wanda (played by Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis). The jewels are just barely stowed away when the first double cross happens. The second double cross is only a short time after. One double cross might have caused problems; with two, all hell breaks loose in an amazing set of misunderstandings, dirty tricks, counter-plots, and revenges. Soon into the fray comes barrister Archie Leach (does that name sound familiar?), played by John Cleese. Wanda wants to use Leach against the English brothers, but Otto's basic anti-British prejudice starts fouling things up.

A FISH CALLED WANDA was written by John Cleese and directed by Charles Crichton (who directed great British comedies like THE LAVENDER HILL MOB). It was based on a story by Cleese Crichton. With that background, it is not surprising that it has a feel of FAWLTY TOWERS combined with MONTY PYTHON crossed with old Ealing Studios comedy. A FISH CALLED WANDA has good three-dimensional characters, has a good story, and is very funny at the same time. Rate it a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

                                        Mark R. Leeper

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