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Fish Called Wanda, A (1988)


 We still don't know if she's a Pisces.
We still don't know if she's a Pisces.

Genre: Crime Comedy

Starring: John Cleese ("Fawlty Towers"Monty Python and the Holy Grail), Jamie Lee Curtis (HalloweenTrue Lies)

Directed By: Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob Dead of Night)

Overview: A diamond heist goes smoothly, but everyone's out to double-cross the other. Between Wanda the honey pot, Otto the sociopathic killing machine, Archie the stuffy barrister and Ken the animal-loving stutterer, the diamonds may never be seen again.

Wanda. It's the name of stuttering Ken's favourite fish. It's also the name of George's lover. Wanda also has a lover named Otto, but George and Ken think Otto is Wendy's brother. The four of them pull off a brilliantly smooth diamond heist, but once the diamonds have been locked away, the not-so-trusting George moves them. Wanda and Otto pull a double-cross and have George arrested for the crime, but they don't know that the loot was moved. George's plan is to get out of jail and escape to Rio with Wanda and Ken. Ken's plan is to kill the only witness of the crime, which would help George go free. Wanda's plan is to seduce George's lawyer, Archie, to find out where George moved the diamonds to. Otto? Well, his job is to go ballistic.

A Fish Called Wanda is funny, it's wacky without being too weird for the mainstream, and it's nothing like the British stuff the old Monty Python crew are known for. The reason to watch is entirely the character dynamics. Stuttering Ken has a thing for animals. His mission is to kill the chief witness of the heist, a little old lady with three cute widdle doggies. His constant attempts on her life are a genuine laugh. Wanda is a seductress who has a thing for hearing foreign languages while making love. Otto is certainly against her seductive advances to Archie the barrister and becomes increasingly jealous, dangerous and recklessly stupid, but doesn't take it well when he's called on it. Unfortunately Otto's a professional killer with a sociopathic streak. Then there's Archie Leach, played by scriptwriter John Cleese. He plays the hilarious everyman rube falling for Wanda's fishy antics. Otto is by far the high point for characters. His berserk wildcard shenanigan single-handedly elevates the movie, and it's the one that cinched Kevin Cline his Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Something smells fishy...

"Something smells fishy..."

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 7

Overall Rating: 74% (Worth A Swim)

I've seen A Fish Called Wanda a couple times before and I remember how this was one of the summer hits back in '88 when I was 13 years old. During this recent viewing, I recalled how much more suited it was for its era, how it's just a little bit past its prime now. Aside from the occasional pang of datedness you see from large shoulder pads, A Fish Called Wanda holds up surprisingly well, but it took me just a little too long to settle into. Maybe it's me. In my old age, I seem to find more subtle, less absurd comedies like In The Loop and Four Lions holding my interest a little better.

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