FISH CALLED WANDA, A (Special Edition): DVD
Sexy American diamonds lover Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her wannabe CIA agent boyfriend Otto (Kevin Kline) are in England to rob a diamond collection with locals George (Tom Georgeson) and animal-loving stutterer Ken (Michael Palin). When George is nicked and moves the diamonds to a secret place, Wanda tries to seduce George's lawyer, Archie (John Cleese), to discover where it's hidden. This not only makes Otto dangerously jealous, but puts Archie in some very compromising positions.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
I'm not really a fan of British humour, which tends to be one of two things - boring or bawdy. But A Fish Called Wanda is a true British gem; a heist film filled with off-the-wall hilarity thanks to some very eccentric performances. Kline is terrifically over-the-top as Wanda's skilful but stupid boyfriend whom she passes off as her brother,
and as Wanda, Curtis is at her bosom-heaving best; a quick witted little sex-kitten. We get the best of Britain here too, thanks to Monty Python vets John Cleese (who also co-writes and co-directs), and Michael Palin, who puts on a stutter so perfect you almost want to get up and slap the back of the TV.†
This gem of a jewel heist, therefore, is more concerned with laughs than thrills, where eccentric people behave in obsessive and eccentric ways. The tangled web they weave is brilliantly executed, making the British (namely Cleese) look positively daft for letting his libido do the talking, and making the Americans look like shameless, greedy, conniving dimwits. It all makes for an awfully meanspirited movie, and that's just half the fun. Watching Kline eat Palin's fish one by one to get info out of him is a highlight, as is Palin's steam-roller revenge.†
If you ever wanted to get into Cleese's wacky comedic psyche, this DVD package - which is surprisingly stacked with extras - is the place to do it. In John Cleese's First Farewell Performance (a 48 minutes featurette), you get the impression this lanky British comedian has no intention of giving up what he loves best - making people laugh. He admits to being "catatonically allergic to love scenes", so his bedroom sequences with Curtis proved pretty difficult. Python comedy features heavily here, with several skits including Palin. You also get some interesting impressions of the then 77 year old director Charles Crichton about his cast, and how far Cleese will go for a cheap laugh.†
Something Fishy (16 minutes) is a stuffy British TV special narrated by Robert Powell about the locations used in Wanda, and unless you've been to the Diamond District or The Old Bailey, you could give it a miss. The only revelation is that Cleese's character is named after Cary Grant's birth name. There are 26 deleted or alternative scenes introduced by Cleese, which show just how particular he is about his craft. Some were deleted, as you can see, due to their length or to just not being that funny (many scenes were improvised). In A Message from John Cleese (5 minutes) he implores the American movie-going public to see his little British comedy because it stars Americans, because it's mean (with gratuitous violence and sex), and because it has a love story. If only Cleese let the gag about his name rhyming with Meryl Streep go. The package concludes with the theatrical trailer and an extensive photo gallery.†
In conclusion, I have an animal-loving friend who refuses to see any movies where animals die. I keep reminding her it's only make believe. And when a little old lady - who is a key prosecution witness - suffers a heart attack when her darling little Corgie is crushed by a falling safe, well, you've got to make a few concessions in the name of comedy. A must for fans of great comedy.
Published May 1, 2003
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FISH CALLED WANDA, A (Special Edition): DVD (M) - 1998
CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Tom Georgeson, Maria Aitken.
DIRECTOR: Charles Crichton
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with John Cleese, Trivia Track, John
Cleese's First Farewell Performance, Something Fishy, Fish You Were Here: On
Location, Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Introduction by John Cleese, A
Message from John Cleese, Theatrical Trailer, Portrait of a Fish: A Photo
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: April 9, 2003