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A Fish Called Wanda

"Don't call me stupid."

A Fish Called Wanda DVD Cover A Fish Called Wanda

I still remember the first time I saw that crazy heist caper called A Fish Called Wanda. My high school drama class went to see a sneak preview double feature of Wanda and Monkey Shines (which I will only go as far as to say that it was pretty awful) and I was floored.

I knew about Monty Python and has all the episodes that my PBS affiliate would broadcast, but was relatively unfamiliar with any work the troupe's members had done outside of the series (I don't even think I had seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail yet), except for a late-night cable run-in with Michael Palin's The Missionary, a mild sex comedy about a missionary and a home for fallen women.

I had no idea what to expect. Palin had always been my favorite Python (and still is), so I was very curious to see what he would do outside the Python realm. I got more than I bargained for.

Written by John Cleese from a story by Cleese and director Charles Crichton (various Ealing comedies including The Lavender Hill Mob), A Fish Called Wanda is a comedy about four crooks (Jamie Lee Curtis: Wanda, Kevin Kline: Otto, Tom Georgeson: George, and Michael Palin: Ken) who are all trying to double-cross each other by linking with other members of the group. Wanda in particular has the cards stacked in her favor, as she is--in one way or another--attempting to seduce all three men.

The humor comes from several directions. As the old lady is the only one who can ID any of them, George asks Ken to eliminate her. Unfortunately, he keeps killing her pet dogs instead--one at a time. As an animal lover, this leaves Ken in no end of distress. Very black humor, indeed. Meanwhile, Otto is trying to get information from Ken by pretending to be gay. Ken isn't either, but Otto doesn't seem to care. He continues to come on to him. (Kline won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year for his performance as Otto.)

Surprisingly, A Fish Called Wanda has stood up well over time. It is still one of the films that I continue to return to for dependable belly laughs. The promotional short for the film was one of the funniest things I saw that year and Wanda deserves a full DVD treatment. Until then, though, I guess I'll have to make do.

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