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A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Brilliant cast, brilliant script, brilliant direction. Just brilliant.

Directed by:

Charles Crichton

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 108 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

When John Cleese brought together a team of two Hollywood stars, two Pythons (including, of course, himself), and the director of some of Ealing's finest and most memorable comedies, it was one of those marvellous – and extremely rare – movie occasions when absolutely everything was just right. There has arguably never been a funnier or more appealing movie than A Fish Called Wanda.

Cleese's gag-packed screenplay had audiences on both sides of the Atlantic cracking up, and no wonder. Even cruelty to animals and putting the frighteners on old ladies is hilarious in this wonderful heist romp, so tremendous are the performances of each of the main players. Kevin Kline was never better than in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Otto, the philosophy-quoting psychopath. Michael Palin, seldom seen in the comedy arena these days, is brilliant as stammering creature-comforter Ken. Jamie Lee Curtis displays a surprising comic talent as triple-crossing seductress Wanda. And then, of course, there's Cleese himself as the superbly-pompous defence barrister Archie Leach (which, as an interesting aside, is the real name of one Cary Grant).

Wanda also has a highly under-rated support cast, including Maria Aitken as the incredibly stiff upper-lipped Mrs Leach, Patricia Hayes as the doddery old dear pinpointed for a “rubbing out”, and Tom Georgeson as the moustachioed spiv joining Wanda, Ken and Otto on their jewel robbery.

The jokes come thick and fast and, while it had Brits nodding their heads in recognition of the loud and brash Yanks, the Americans lapped up the equally stereotyped portrayal of English self-importance and snobbery. All of these elements merge perfectly to produce one of the finest, most well-observed comedy features of all time.

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It's Got: Kevin Kline eating live goldfish, Michael Palin driving a steamroller and John Cleese in the buff.

It Needs: To have won more than just one Oscar.

DVD Extras Includes audio commentary from John Cleese, deleted/alternate scenes, "Fish You Were Here" documentary, John Cleeses thoughts on the USA, Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween Memento, "Portrait Of A Fish" photo gallery, original theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10

Alternatives:

Clockwise, Fierce Creatures, The Lavender Hill Mob

Summary

Brilliant cast, brilliant script, brilliant direction. Just brilliant.

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