[Last Film I Saw] A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Title: A Fish Called Wanda
Year: 1988
Country: USA, UK
Language: English, Italian, Russian
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Charles Crichton
John Cleese
Charles Crichton
Music: John Du Prez
Cinematography: Alan Hume
John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline
Michael Palin
Maria Aitken
Tom Georgeson
Patricia Hayes
Cynthia Cleese
Ken Campbell
Geoffrey Palmer
Stephen Fry
Rating: 7.7/10

Hardly a Monty Python vehicle, but its remnants, Cleese and Palin has brought forth perhaps their best work so far (including the python period), a contemporary satire homing in the UK/USA self-mocking kernel, with their US counterparts, Curtis and Kline.

Entertaining to its very core, the crime-light, pratfall-heavy comedy ingenuously spikes British humor in its comparatively foolhardy story of a manipulative woman’s happy-ever-after scheme of misappropriating all the loots from a bank robbery in her own pocket and ditching her two lovers (the sinister-looking boss she framed and the dorky, jealous, violent American criminal she could not bear anymore) with the right man (a British lawyer) she has inadvertently encountered.

There are some minor cruelty in the film since dogs are consecutively and (three-times-in-a-row) inadvertently killed and fish are eaten alive (including the titular Wanda), which may faintly offend animal right activists, but apart from that, other crucial gags and set pieces are all put into the right place, nudity, awkward cuckoldry, jokes, wisecrackers, teasing of philosophy, a touch of gayness and a little bit of action, you name it!

Kline’s winning of BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR is such an atypical victory, by virtue of now the snubs of distinguished comedic performances have been enacted in the official mind-set of the academy and most audience’s minds (last year McCarthy’s nomination for BRIDESMAIDS 2011, 7/10 is flipping wondrous), and Kline is winsome as a composite of egoist, goofiness, wide-eyedness and a ludicrous perilousness. Another delicious supporting contender, Palin, stuck in his self-conscious stammer as the boss’ loyal sidekick, is still capable of merciless assassination, loses all his beloved fish as a retribution of killing three innocent puppies, but equipped with a feel good revenge in the end.

Curtis has extensively excavated her comedy soul, being lithely tricky, but uncompromisingly attractive. Cleese, as the authentic linchpin of the film (he is also the co-writer, co-producer and an uncredited co-director), a well-off lawyer who is smitten with Curtis from his first glance, and being salutary from the ragbag mishaps, determinedly leaves his wealthier wife and ends up with the woman he is infatuated plus the dough, an all-too-hasty coda may or may not be exonerated.

A FISH CALLED WANDA is director Charles Crichton’s swan-song, I rate it a venerable 8 out 10 although the film itself may fall short of my usual criterion of the “great work” category, nevertheless, we all should cherish a bit more of decent comedies which is a needle in a haystack in the present market.


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