I am amazed that a film with so much backstabbing, deviousness, physical and emotional violence and underhandedness can be this much fun.
Otto (Kevin Kline), Ken (Michael Palin), George and Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) discuss, plan and pull off a heeeeooooggge heist that sees them with a massive cache of valuable booty, and three days to lie low before skipping town.
But three days is a long time to lie low, and any share becomes greater when divisible by a smaller number, so it is not long before one of the crew is implicated and dragged to jail to defend himself. Enter Archie Leach (John Cleese), the lawyer on the case, and a man with the usual male weaknesses, not assisted by the fact that his high society wife and daughter openly deride him.
The beauty of A Fish Called Wanda is in the characterisation, Otto is a sadistic brash opportunist who unfortunately doesn’t think things through before acting, Ken is a stuttering, well meaning animal lover, and Wanda is a smart young woman willing to use anything – often two things – to get her way.
With contrasting goals, multi-faceted love triangles (that become squares and nearly pentagons at times), and the law in hot pursuit the stage is set for convenient and inconvenient meetings, near misses and ridiculous actions and reactions as everyone forms and ignores alliances and tries their level best to waylay the others. Kline and Palin shine as polar opposites and Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese are far better than their characters require. And George? Well sorry George, there’s a reason you didn’t make the poster.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. A Fish Called Wanda might not have gone down as one of the classic comedies of the 80s, but regardless of perceived staying power it is often quite hilarious and never less than entertaining, with Kline’s Otto one of the funniest characters in film.