A Fish Called Wanda

  • Title:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Director:  Charles Crichton
  • Date:  1988
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Geoffrey Palmer, Stephen Fry
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I offer a complete and utter retraction.  The implication was totally without basis in fact.  And was in no way fair comment and was motivated purely by malice.  And I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family.  And I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”  — Archie, apologizing to Otto, who is holding him upside-down outside a window

“Oh, right to call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people.”  — Wanda, to Otto

“Apes don’t read philosophy.” — Otto
“Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it!  Now let me correct you on a couple of things, ok?  Aristotle was not Belgian.  The central message of Buddhism is not every man for himself!  And the London Underground is not a political movement!  Those are all mistakes, Otto, I looked them up.”  — Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda is an extremely funny movie, with a brilliant cast.  But it is extremely difficult to explain why it is so funny.  The film opens with a armed robbery of a jewelry exchange in London.  The four thieves get away with twenty million in diamonds.  However, after Otto calls the cops to arrest George, one of  the co-conspirators, and the guy who planned the whole thing, as he and Wanda planned, they discover George was too clever for them and he’s hidden the gems somewhere else.  The question is where?

Thus begins a great farce and character comedy.  Ken, the stuttering, animal-loving, assassin, get’s the key to a safe-deposit box, but doesn’t know where the box is.  Wanda, unbeknownst to Ken, steals the key and hides it in her locket.  Then Wanda decides to cosy up to Archie, George’s barrister, in hopes that he will tell her where the loot is.  Meanwhile, Wanda and Otto have been having a relationship, but Wanda’s only interested in Otto until the caper is done and she has the diamonds.  Wanda’s also holding Ken close to the vest.

The film snowballs, as any good farce does.  The characters are larger-than-life, yet still sympathetic.  As the film progresses, Archie, especially, becomes the put-upon good English husband who needs excitement in his life.  And that excitement arrives, in the form of Wanda, who initially simply wants to find out where George hid the jewels, but later falls for Archie anyway.

This is a very, very funny film, that needs to be seen to be understood and appreciated.  But overall, it’s extremely enjoyable and a good-time film.  Moreover, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Trivia:  Cleese’s character is named Archie Leach.  Archibald Leach is the given or birth name of Cary Grant.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Flying Down to Rio

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