We’re keeping 80’s hilarity going this week to keep smiles on anyone and everyone’s face at a time when laughs are needed most – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Today it’s time to check out a flick that has every color of the comedy rainbow present and accounted for. Slapstick, outlandish characters and witty humor all wrapped up in a salacious and vivacious flick that begins with a simple – or perhaps not so simple – heist. Ready to dive into farcical infested waters? Do it with….A Fish Called Wanda!
George Thomason is a London gangster with a new job on the horizon – a jewel heist. And while he has a regular partner in the form of frail stuttering pal Ken Pile, George is forced to enlist a couple of Americans in the form of con woman Wanda Gershwitz and Weapons man Otto West to get the job done. As far as George knows Wanda and Otto are brother and sister, but the two lovers falsely use this as a front for Wanda to be able to seduce her way into the hearts of both George and Ken and facilitate a double cross for the goods. But when said double cross goes both ways and George is arrested and hides the jewels, it’s up to a sexy and savvy Wanda to seduce the George’s very stoic barrister Archie Leach to get the location of the loot.
Yes, the story is a basic hijinks set up with a heist at the helm, but co-writers John “Fawlty Towers” Cleese and Charles Crichton wisely fill their film with every style of comedy that works. And to back up their outlandish ideas they cast actors that perfectly suit the silly styling and drive the humor home. To cover the slapstick angle, Monty Python alum Michael Palin brings pitch perfect over-the-top camp to his role as the animal loving stutterer Ken. (The scenes where he accidently kills canines and also tries to stop Otto from eating his favorite fish Wanda are priceless!) In the area of droll British humor, Cleese finely fits the stuffy yet passionate role of barrister Archie who is quick with the witty quips and one-liners. In terms of raw smart sex appeal, Jamie Lee Curtis is a wonderful femme fatale who not only oozes sensual appeal, but also elicits laughs with her uncontrollable animal affinity for foreign languages. And bringing up the rear, character quirk is given a shot of nitroglycerin with the performance by Kevin Kline as the obtuse and jealous Otto. (It’s so good he won the damn Oscar for the work!) All bring a riotous nuance to both their characters and the films mirthful tone and it’s why Wanda even with its simple story scenario is elevated to a comedy classic.
The Wanda gang tried to strike lightning twice with their reunion via a “spiritual sequel” years later with a film called Fierce Creatures, but their hilarity heart just wasn’t in it. (A lame story didn’t help either!) Unafraid to do whatever it took to get a laugh, to go out on a limb in the name of all things funny and matching comedy and character together in a perfect playful union, A Fish Called Wanda and the merry band of men (and women!) didn’t just bring the funny – it killed it.