Film Review: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Release Date: July 7th, 1988 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Charles Crichton
Written by: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Cynthia Cleese, Stephen Fry

Star Partners Limited Partnership, Prominent Features, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole.” – Otto, “How very interesting. You’re a true vulgarian, aren’t you?” – Archie, “You are the vulgarian, you fuck.” – Otto

I remember adults talking about how much they loved this movie when I was nine years-old. I also vaguely remember seeing the John Cleese getting caught naked gag whether from trailers or just seeing it pop up on HBO while flipping the channels.

That’s really all I knew about the movie, though, but people still talk about it fondly, so I figured that I should finally check it out. Plus, I like Cleese, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline. Cynthia Cleese and Stephen Fry also pop up in this.

For the most part, this was amusing and I liked that it was essentially a film-noir structured comedy. Curtis essentially plays a femme fatale without the murder and you never really know which guy she’s screwing over and who she may choose in the end… or no one.

Cleese was as likable and hilarious as always and this really felt like somewhat of spiritual successor to probably his most famous character, Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers. Although, Cleese’s character here is less of a shithead.

Kline is solid as a total bastard and I especially liked his banter and scenes with Michael Palin.

Overall, this is pretty quick paced, whimsical and entertaining. However, it didn’t captivate me on the level that it has seemed to for other people, especially at the time of this picture’s release. Maybe it worked better in 1988 and for an audience that was older than me then. 

Honestly, it reminds me a lot of other comedies of the time featuring a small group of people all trying to fuck each other over. It was kind of a normal comedy trope at the time and with that, I can’t really see this as something wholly original or refreshing, even for its era. While it beat Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to the theater by a few months, it pales in comparison to that by a pretty substantial margin.

Rating: 6.25/10

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