A fish-ful of pounds (and other singular creatures)

Hi everyone! We can consider this article as a continuation of those “Five remedies for sadness” released several weeks ago. Today we are going to concentrate on a film which, in 1988, revitalized the comedy genre: “A fish called Wanda”.

There is something that distinguishes this film from many others: surely, the charisma of the four main actors and their brilliant and hilarious performances. But, let’s start with the beginning.

Mythic John Cleese (along with Graham Chapman, the two most outstanding members from Monty Python) dumped his acid sense of humour in a story about burglars, and he decided to offer it to a filmmaker (Charles Crichton, who hadn’t shot a movie since the late 60’s). Cleese succeeded in putting pressure on the producers, and (along with Crichton) wrote the final screenplay. They opted to dispense with the dark surreal humour from Monty Python’s stage, and they also impregnated the absurd situations with more dramatic likeliness. And the bet was complete, because they earned both the support from the audience and the admiration of most of the critics.

A fish-ful of pounds (and other singular creatures)

As I said before, the biggest tricks aren’t the dynamic situations, but the performances of four comedians in pure state of grace. John Cleese himself uses Cary Grant’s real name to portray Archie Leech, a typical English lawyer, who becomes involved in a strange plot to steal some jewels. Jamie Lee Curtis is the sensual Wanda, the true brain of the operation, who will seduce anyone she needs to reach her objective. Michael Palin is Ken, a stuttering friend of animals (and almost a frustrated criminal). But Kevin Kline, in the role of enraged Otto, deserves a chapter apart.

Otto is one of my three favourite fictional characters. He is a pretentious, intellectual crook, who reads Nietzche and practises Buddhist techniques “his own way” so as to control his aggressiveness. His scenes with Ken, his angers and misunderstandings with Archie, and his fits of virility in the presence of Wanda, make every entrance memorable.

Without revealing much of the plot, I will only point out that Wanda is also the name of Ken’s favourite fish, and its final destiny constitutes one anthological scene with Otto and Ken.

The chemistry between the actors made them participate in a similar Project, “Fierce Creatures”, another crazy film in which the new characters themselves are links to the roles performed in “A fish called Wanda”. The similarities are obvious:

-John Cleese is another good professional (a zoo director, this time), quite innocent, immersed in other peoples´ problems.
-Jamie Lee Curtis is again the person with the focused ideas.
-Kevin Kline is the owner’s son, unable to impress his father.

The fans of the first film will surely be delighted with this second movie. But there are two remarkable novelties which make “Fierce Creatures” stand as an excellent comedy with its own personality. The talented Kevin Kline plays the role of the owner, being father and son at the same time. And Michael Palin does not stutter anymore. He is an employee of the zoo with irrepressible verbal diarrhoea. You should not miss the scene in which he loses his voice.

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