I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!
Title: A Fish Called Wanda
Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: Charles Crichton
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | Prominent Features
English gangster George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his right-hand man Ken Pile (Michael Palin) plan a jewel heist. They bring the American couple Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto West (Kevin Kline), who claim to be siblings but are actually lovers. The robbery goes off without a hitch and then the members of the gang double-cross one another. Wanda and Otto turn in George to the police, and Wanda plans to turn on Otto too, until they discover that George moved the diamonds to a different hiding place.
Wanda decides to seduce George’s barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) so she can learn if George plans to turn over the diamonds for a reduced sentence. Her attempts to get to know Archie are interrupted by a jealous and stupid Otto (“Don’t call me stupid!”). Meanwhile, Ken attempts to assassinate an elderly woman who is a witness that identified George as being a robbery. An animal lover, Ken is broken-hearted that each of his three attempts to kill the witness lead to the deaths of one of her tiny dogs.
Despite the odds, Archie and Wanda form a real attachment and through a screwy series of events the diamonds are recovered, and they escape to the South America with them.
When Did I First See This Movie?:
I was at my peak period as a Monty Python fanatic, watching all their movies and taping every Monty Python’s Flying Circus episode off of MTV and PBS, as well as various other projects involving one or more Pythons. I was ecstatic when I learned that there was a brand new movie involving two members of Monty Python and saw it soon after release with my family.
Kevin Kline was the revelation of this movie. At the time he’d been mostly in serious dramas up to this point (although later in life I saw Sophie’s Choice where his character was both hilarious and terrifying). His performance as a stupid American, ultraviolent jerk steals the movie.
What Did I Remember?:
“What was the middle part?” I remembered pretty well how the movie began and ended but it was fun to rediscover how they got from point a to point.
What Did I Forget?:
Like I said above, I forgot the middle part. I also forgot the subplot about Otto pretending to be gay with a crush on Ken, probably because it’s one of the few gags in the movie that doesn’t hit the mark.
What Makes This Movie Great?:
This movie features a hilarious script by Cleese and Crichton and four actors putting in one of their career best performances while all playing against type. It’s really sad that they couldn’t find the magic again when they made Fierce Creatures.
What Doesn’t Hold Up?:
So many comedies that I loved in the 80s cause severe cringe, and I was worried that A Fish Called Wanda would be the same. Blessedly, the movie holds up well, I think because of the fact that everyone in the movie is clearly an awful person, so it’s not like your dealing with a sympathetic character doing awful things.
Even at the time it was released, the movie was criticized for Ken having a significant stutter. I enjoy Michael Palin’s performance so I want to find a way to justify it, but there’s no denying that the jokes come at the expense of people who stutter.
Is It a Classic?:
It’s definitely a standout comedy film, although it may fall short of the all-time great movies list.
5 more all-time favorite movies starting with F:
- Fargo (1996)
- Field of Dreams (1989)
- Finding Nemo (2003)
- The Fisher King (1991)
- The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
What is your favorite movie starting with F? What is your guess for my movie starting with G? (Hint: this movie gave rise to a psychological term). Let me know in the comments!