A Fish Called Wanda
Year:
1988
Country:
USA, UK
Genre:
Crime, Comedy
IMDB rating:
7.6
Director:
Charles Crichton, John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda Gershwitz
Kevin Kline as Otto
Michael Palin as Ken Pile
Maria Aitken as Wendy
Tom Georgeson as Georges Thomason
Patricia Hayes as Mrs. Coady
Cynthia Cleese as Portia
Mark Elwes as Customer in Jeweler's Shop
Neville Phillips as Manager of Jeweler's Shop
Peter Jonfield as Inspector Marvin
Ken Campbell as Bartlett
Al Ashton as Warder
Storyline: Sexy American diamonds lover Wanda and her boyfriend Otto are in England to plot alongside George and Ken the robbery of a diamond collection. Wanda and Otto want the stolen diamonds for themselves, and inform the police about George not knowing that he has already moved the diamonds to another secret place. Wanda thinks the best way to find out is by getting close to George's lawyer - Archie Leach.
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Reviews
What was the middle thing?
This is an incredibly hilarious, screwball, caper romp. With only two of the Pythons and a director who, I understand, had not done comedy before, you might be worried that it leaves something to be desired, but I can assure you, it is a sharply written masterpiece. A lot of the humor is pitch black, there is cleverness and silliness, vaudeville and sit-com-like sequences, this insists on not being politically correct, and almost no joke or gag falls flat or feels forced. There is a ton of energy in it, and the pace is spot-on. It does not run out of steam at any point, and it doesn't end abruptly. The plot is engaging and very nicely put together; detailed without being convoluted. Editing and cinematography are great, they don't call too much attention to themselves. It all adds up to making this a classic of its genre. This may be the first time Kline behaves like an ass in a role, which has since become his schtick. Jamie Lee Curtis is at her most seductive and sexy in this. The characters are well-written, fleshed out and credible(if not necessarily mentally stable). I was laughing throughout the entirety of this, and would agree that it is definitely one of the funniest films ever. There is plentiful strong language, a bit of sex that isn't graphic in its depiction, a little over the top violence, and it can be rather tasteless(for anyone bothered by that). The Special Edition DVD contains two additional tracks(an interesting commentary by John and a good and amusing factoid one), a handful of well-done, informative featurettes, numerous deleted and alternate scenes with Cleese introducing every single one of them, and some photo galleries. I recommend this to anyone that can imagine enjoying this. 8/10
2010-01-14
Very Enjoying
The great team does it again: 1. John Cleese 2. Kevin Kline 3. Jamie Lee Curtis 4. Michael Palin They are excellent together with a lot of fun and excellent comedy for all the family. They cooperated in at least three movies that I'm aware of and all are very good. It is a pity they don't have anymore comedies together. In their last movie "Fierce creatures" they even laughed at the end of the movie about themselves. John Cleese remarks towards Jamie Lee Curtis "Wanda" like by mistake. In fact, it refers to their first movie together and that seems to be an unofficial good by remark. I do hope they will return with another director. Go and see them all.
2007-07-21
Treasure!
A Fish Called Wanda (1988) is for comedy what Citizen Kane is for drama, Godfather Part 1 and 2 for gangster epics, and 2001: Space Odyssey for science fiction - it is one of the best in its genre. This is a work of the comic genius. It is always funny and never goes out of breath. The film is shining and sparkling like the diamonds of the highest quality - just like these that made four thieves who have pulled the heist of their lives to stop at nothing, including lies, deceit, backstabbing, and betrayal, in order to possess them. The film was made 22 years ago but time has nothing over A Fish Called Wanda. It has not gotten outdated or stalled and it never will. It is a marvel that can be enjoyed over and over. AFCW has become a cult favorite for my family. Many quotes and jokes from the comedy are the part of our everyday conversations, and we use them often even forgetting where they came from: "Disappointed!", "Don't call me stupid", "You have a beautiful speaking voice - when it works", "You British think you are so superior", "What was the part in the middle?", "Avoid the green ones. They're not ripe yet." "When you say "friendly", what are we talking about here? Cordial? Courteous? Supportive? What?" There are many more.

A Fish Called Wanda is a real "treasure", and it is not just my opinion. The film which was a great success with the critics and the box offices when it was released has been included in all possible lists of the funniest movies and the best comedies. I looked them all up. :) My younger son, who lists AFCW as one of his favorite comedies, wrote the review about it and posted on this very site. He says in the end of his review: "The film is close to 2 hours long, but the plot is so clever and well-structured that it's over before you know it. To me, that is one of the trademarks of a great film. You don't want this movie to end, and you're disappointed when it does." I can add that as soon as it is over I want to watch it from the beginning and experience the magic of great movie making again. Very talented artists participated in making A Fish Called Wanda, and everything in the film turned out simply perfect. What makes the film truly funny all actors, including in the small cameos, created memorable characters because they had wonderfully constructed and written script to work with. John Cleese deserves the first mention for his excellent triple work as the co-writer of the Oscar nominated script/co-director and the star in the role of Archie Leach, the well-mannered English gentleman whose marriage seems to be in crisis, the defender of George, the leader of the diamonds thieves who keeps the "key" to the coveted loot to himself. Cleese's partner Python - Michael Palin is excellent as shy, stuttering hit-man Ken who is secretly in love with Wanda, tenderly loves animals but is ready to help an inconvenient witness to "meet with an accident", even if it is a very old lady with a weak heart. Loud, pushy and sexually liberated Americans are represented in the film by Wanda (always charming and illuminating the screen Jamie Lee Curtis) and her lover Otto, the former CIA operative, the expert in all kinds of weapons (Kevin Kline in the Oscar winning performance) whom she introduces as her brother. Wanda is as seductive and sexy as she is clever, unscrupulous, conniving and backstabbing. What she wants she sure will get. She is much cleverer than all men around her combined together but seems that in the end she might find the right man. And finally, Otto, "the ape who reads philosophy but does not understand it...the man so stupid that calling him stupid is insult to stupid people" who does not realize how vulgar and intellectually challenged he is. In the movie where there is no bad or boring performance at all, Kline is outstanding. A talented film and stage actor who has performed in many Shakespeare's plays, he would never have the role as brilliant and funny as Otto.

You can write the volumes about A Fish Called Wanda but they will not explain its charm. One of the reasons that makes the film so funny is playing the differences or in this case, the conflicts and clashes between the different cultures, mentalities, ways of living, talking (even if the same language), behaving, presenting oneself. But it is just one of the reasons, there are many more. I only add that there is documented the known death of a viewer from laughing while watching A Fish Called Wanda. It happened in Denmark in 1989. The audiologist named Ole Bentz laughed so hard while watching the film that his heart rate was pounding between 250 and 500 beats per minute which led to the fatal heart attack. It is certainly a tragedy but come to think of it, a person died while being happy on the top of enjoyment. I envy such death.

And finally, a famous Russian writer and poet of 19th century, Alexander Pushkin wrote in his play 'Mozart and Salieri', "If the sad and dark thoughts come to your mind, Just open a bottle of Champagne or Read again the "Marriage of Figaro." (Translation is mine)

I just would add - or watch again "A Fish Called Wanda."
2010-11-29
the funniest work of Kline's career; a big bang of ultra hilarity and over-the-top jokes of visual and wit variety
A Fish Called Wanda comes from director Charles Crichton, though much of what makes the film a success is that he just doesn't get in the way of what these actors can do and, more importantly, the material. It's John Cleese as writer and him and Michael Palin as co-stars, so immediately (and especially for me as I saw it as part of a retrospective involving the group) Monty Python comes to mind. It is and it isn't like Python, as this time it does tell really a full-on story without it being too sketchy- 'too' being a loose word here, most particular exceptions being Palin's scenes after the old lady- and it's all really about the wacky surprises and behavior of these characters. It's also the Oscar winning performance of Kevin Kline's career, and possibly still one of the very best that he's ever pulled off. It's shameless at being stupid, which his Otto as a running gag replies "don't call me stupid", and also at trying to seem intelligent in his dastardly gangster ways, while supplanting himself with Nietzsche and jealousy around his tease/seeming-to-others sibling Wanda played by Jamie Lee Curtis. It's fearless comedy at it's best, and it's quite possible out of all the good things going for A Fish Called Wanda he's overall the funniest, almost without trying (just seeing his face as he pops up during the rendezvous Curtis and Cleese have is worth the price to check it out).

But aside from him the picture works as being a rip-roaring comedy, so to speak, as the comedy ranges from more exaggerated forms of comedy around for ages (i.e. there's someone in the house that shouldn't be, hides, wackiness), to being more explicit (Cleese's Arch strips down for his beau, only to have the people who once had real estate dealings with him see him right then and there), to being almost sadistic (dead dogs the biggest). But there's also room for stuttering, here in the form of Palin's Ken, who is 2nd only to Kline in the big laughs department, as he ultimately ends up missing the dogs he wipes out more than the old lady does herself. His may be a kind of running gag that could wear out its welcome, and in maybe one or two scenes the laughs aren't totally mined, but he also provides some of the funniest scenes, like with Kline, I may have ever seen, like when Arch comes in to ask Ken where the jewels are, and the stutter goes on and on and on (or, for that matter, when he gets 'cured').

It also helps that Curtis and Cleese's characters, while often seeming like the 'straight' characters in the film, are also extremely gifted at doing their forms of comedy, and Cleese ends up pulling some unexpected comedic bits the likes of which match up to those of his Python days. His character at first seems fairly bland, an attorney defending a jewel thief (I forget the actor's name), who gets taken in romantically by a 'law student', Wanda, whom he doesn't want to get involved with as she is, of course, a witness for the defense in the case. But in the midst of playing him up to get info, it becomes for both actors something to keep up with Kline's own comedy stylings, his facial expressions and manner of speaking (not just the Italian, of course a highlight). He puts up a well-measured performance alongside all the others, and altogether the main four actors pull off something of an amazing feat; it has the pure irreverence of Python, the go-for-broke silliness done with a slightly more dirty and almost obscene beat, while even having a conventional side to it too with the heist plot. And it makes for a great time if you happen to get to see it in a packed audience.
2006-10-03
With a Cast as good as this, Nothing can go wrong
A fish called Wanda, packed with comic genius's delivers all you could want, and maybe a little more. It's sexy, funny and clever, every character is well played, every line is well written.

It is great fun to watch each character trying to con the other out of their share of the loot. Its hilarious to listen to K..K..Ken trying to trying to negotiate with Otto. Its funny to see Archie's relationship with Wanda develop while his relationship with his wife stagnate's.

As i said nothing can go wrong with a cast as good as this, and in this instance i was right, sadly the same cast is featured in Fierce Creatures and that's a different story all together.

8/10
2005-01-20
A Fish Called Jamie Lee.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988): Dir: Charles Crichton / Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken: Clever caper comedy with a title that not only references a pet, but also the woman who conned everyone and got away. Plot regards stolen jewels and the betrayal of the leader. Wanda is played by Jamie Lee Curtis who set up the betrayal along with her lover, a weapons expert named Otto, played to brilliant comic extremes by Kevin Kline. John Cleese is hilarious as barrister Archie Leach. His marriage is reduced to spite, and his teenage daughter wails for attention. Now Wanda has entrapped him for information resulting in situations resulting in him being hung upside down out a window, beat up while robbing his own house, and being caught naked by a family of four on a surprise visit. Curtis is sexy playing her options but has a weakness for erotic spoken languages. Kline provides a physical sarcasm with his jealous outbursts over Wanda until he is using a firearm to issue an apology. Michael Palin plays the animal loving Ken whose task of killing an elderly witness results is his most hilariously painful backfires. With a grand supporting cast and director Charles Crichton making his best caper since Lavender Hill Mob. Ending is wayward with humour often in questionable taste, this becomes a brilliant clash of cultures descending in a net that only Wanda can outmaneuver. Score: 8 / 10
2015-07-29
An energetic, very funny comedy
"A Fish Called Wanda", 1988 Directed by Charles Crichton Story by Charles Crichton and John Cleese Written by John Cleese

* * * 1/2 Very Good

Most comedy films are forgettable and very mediocre. This one's an exception, because of lively paced direction, good writing and Kevin Klein's acting performance. the story concerns a trio of English criminals, the jewel heist and trying to later locate the stolen jewels, hidden after the theft and take care of witnesses to the crime.

I saw this film when it was first released theatrically in 1988 and remembered it for being very funny. Kevin Klein won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a rare win for a comedy film. Klein plays the character with much enthusiasm, imagination, style, technique (including accents), energy and good timing. The characters and situations are well written (creative and insightful) for a comedy film. Klein's performance is classic. John Cleese wrote a large variety of jokes, delivered almost non-stop, for pretty much everything in the story.

I haven't seen this film for 22 years, the longest time until I saw a favorite film a second time. The title has always stayed in my mind, because it left an impression on me. Most comedies are forgettable. The film has some interesting, diverse characters, funny dialog and has an inspired comic energy that is engaging all the way through.

In a nutshell: three strong reasons to like the film: direction, screenplay and Kevin Klein's acting performance. As a comedy, this one's a big favorite of mine, a classic.
2010-09-23
A Farcical Comedy
From the brilliant comedic mind of John Cleese comes this hilarious heist caper comedy about jewel thieves entangled in webs of lies, duplicity and jealousy.

Boasting an excellent cast including Cleese himself as a lawyer charged with defending the heist's mastermind, Jamie Lee Curtis as the titular Wanda (displaying a fabulous mix of sexuality and controlled comedic wit), Michael Palin as the stuttering and put-upon Ken, the most impressionable gang member and rounding out the talent is the Academy Award winning performance of Kevin Kline as the brainless, hilariously egotistical and extremely jealous Otto. The cast plays beautifully off each other as they insult, compliment and weasel their ways into our funny bones.

The script is side-splitting and full of memorable exchanges and one-liners (most of the memorable quips coming from Kline himself, but also from Curtis, Cleese and Palin). The humor is crisp and sharp, hitting a few missteps in the middle but quickly regains its footing. Slapstick comedy heightens the hilarity and will have you laughing so hard.
2016-08-28
Hilarious Characters and Great Acting
If you are looking for a comedy that is incredibly silly yet wonderfully intelligent, A Fish Called Wanda, is a good bet. This is a comedic tale of greed, mistrust, and romance.

American and British stereotypes are hilariously used. Sexual comedy, also, reaches new heights in this film.

Worth watching for the top-notch characters and great acting alone.
2002-06-16
Wandaful Comedy
After robbing millions worth of diamonds, the robbers try to double-cross each other in this hilarious comedy. The cast has terrific chemistry. Curtis, looking very sexy, seduces the lawyer of the imprisoned gang member who has hidden the loot. Cleese, who co-wrote the clever script, plays the lawyer, Archie Leach (Cary Grant's real name). Palin is perfect as a stuttering animal lover who keeps a fish called Wanda. Kline steals the film in his Oscar-winning role of a moronic, ugly American who insults the Brits and makes fun of Palin's stuttering. Although somewhat long for a comedy, veteran director Chrichton expertly manages the multiple plot lines, never letting it drag.
2009-04-03
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