In London, four very different people team up on a jewel heist, then try to double-cross one another for the loot, complicated by their efforts to fool a very proper barrister.In London, four very different people team up on a jewel heist, then try to double-cross one another for the loot, complicated by their efforts to fool a very proper barrister.In London, four very different people team up on a jewel heist, then try to double-cross one another for the loot, complicated by their efforts to fool a very proper barrister.
This is a work of comic genius. And, like any good film, the screenplay is at the heart of the belly laughs. Every character is given a detailed personality quirk or two, and then it is shamefully exploited for laugh after laugh. Note for example, John Cleese's speech to Jamie Lee Curtis about how awful it is to be British - the eternal fear of embarrassment. Moments later, he is caught buck naked in a marital tryst in some else's flat by the people to used to live in his own home. Also, the funny-offensive envelope is pushed to the limit when K-K-K-Ken (Michael Palin), the passionate animal lover inadvertently kills three innocent dogs in his attempt to murder an old woman who would otherwise be a prosecution witness. Now that's funny!
Cleese's character, Archie Leach (Carey Grant's real name) is a likable buffoon of a lawyer, happy in his banal existence until he meets the sexy American, Wanda (Jamie Lee). I cannot even being to describe the plot beyond that point without doing it a grave disservice. It twists and dangles about in a world of double-cross and goldfish-eating for no other reason than to set up a joke.
You cannot speak of this film without mention of Kevin Kline as Otto, a role that won him a richly-deserved Oscar. Otto is the ex-CIA "weapons man" who makes it his business to read philosophy but would be more at home with Curious George. An obsessive, self-indulgent, painfully stupid, violent, deceitful, gullible egomaniac, the character of Otto is amongst the best comedic performances ever delivered.
The film's funniest scene takes place at Leach's (Cleese) house. In a scene that rivals anything that has ever hit the screen for laughs, the film and its scripts looks deep enough into itself to even give Cleese's dry-as-toast wife a laugh or two. Then, later on, this scene proves to be the set up for even more jokes. A Fish Called Wanda is pure comedy and every scene either provides a laugh or sets one up - it graciously does not waste our time trying to be moral or turning into a formula car-chase flick.
My comments are choppy but so is this movie. If you see it and don't laugh, check your pulse. We have only been given a handful of good comedies in the last decade. A Fish Called Wanda is a treasure. **** out of ****.
NOTE: TBS and some other TV networks show this film with the "offensive language" edited out. It kills the movie - if you can't hack the language, pass this one over.
- May 31, 1999