I ended up going to see it in the theaters in August. The audience was laughing so hard at some scenes/lines that sometimes we didn’t even hear the next few lines spoken. I’ve watched it a few more times with others and they have all laughed, too.
The premise is that four thieves perform a jewel heist, but end up getting seen by an elderly woman out walking her dogs. The jewels are hidden, but the leader Georges (Tom Georgeson) and his assistant Ken (Michael Palin) shift the jewels to another hiding spot because Georges does not trust the other two – Otto (Kevin Kline) and Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis). They are Americans. They have also told Georges and Ken that they are brother and sister, but in reality they are lovers. They lied because they wanted to leave open the possibility of Wanda trying to seduce one or both of them.
As it turns out, Georges was right; Otto and Wanda do try to go back for the jewels. When they find they are gone, Otto turns in Georges to the authorities. Georges’ lawyer Archie (John Cleese) becomes involved in all of this when Otto suspects that Georges has told Archie where the jewels are hidden. Wanda starts using her charms on Archie, which makes Otto insanely jealous. In reality, it’s Ken who knows the location – something the others finally come to realize. Meanwhile, Georges has ordered Ken to kill the elderly woman who is the lone witness.
Much of the humor in the film is broad, especially Kevin Kline’s character. He hates all Brits, so being trapped in an entire country of them is a nightmare for him. He is insultingly rude to just about all of them. There is also a lot of humor in Ken’s attempts to kill the witness. He is an animal lover, and his failures to kill her always seem to end up going horrifically wrong for him.
The funny orgasm scene is courtesy of Kevin Kline. He and Wanda are having sex and he makes the most screwed up faces when he is having his orgasm. There were three or four women in the theater audience who especially laughed very hard at this. I think they had seen similar faces themselves from their husbands/boyfriends. Reportedly, Jamie Lee Curtis had to hide her own face during the scene because she couldn’t stop laughing at Kline.
A Fish Called Wanda is not just a two-dimensional comedy, though. Amidst all the larger jokes are a whole bunch of smaller touches. At one point, Archie is robbing his own house (it makes sense when you watch the movie) and he stops to take the time to break a knickknack that is on his mantel. He makes a little “Yes!” motion with his arm and you can tell that he’s probably hated the thing for years, but his wife had bought it and insisted it stay on the mantel.
Another touch comes right at the end of the movie (no spoilers). The word “FIN” appears, which is what is placed at the end of French films to indicate it is the end. Of course, fishes have fins, so this is a final nod to the title character. This movie also has the funniest (and probably slowest) “I’m coming to kill you” scene in history.
One note – the four principal people (Cleese, Palin, Kline, and Curtis) reunited nine years later for a film titled Fierce Creatures. This is not a sequel to A Fish Called Wanda, nor is it related to it in any way. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near as funny, either.
A lot of the humor in A Fish Called Wanda is on the “politically incorrect” or “twisted” side, but even if these kinds of things bother you from time to time you should still give this movie a try. I consider it one of the funniest movies ever made and I give it my highest recommendation.
Chip’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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