You’ve probably heard of this movie, but I wonder if you’ve ever seen it. I can tell you right off the bat that it does, in fact, feature a fish called Wanda, but that the movie has very little to do with her. It’s a comedy the likes of which I have never seen, with a touch of Monty Python, a gallon of stupidity, and waterfall of 1980s.
Jamie Lee Curtis plays Wanda (the person, not the fish) and is a proud thief. Her most recent score is a sack of diamonds stolen with the help of Georges the mastermind (Tom Georgeson), Ken the stutterer (Michael Palin), and Otto the idiot (Kevin Kline). Rather than splitting the loot evenly, Wanda and Otto (her boyfriend posing as her brother) decide to turn Georges over to the police and run away with the diamonds. Their plan works, except for the fact that Georges hid the loot before he was arrested. In order to discover where the diamonds are hidden, Wanda comes up with an elaborate scheme to seduce Georges’ barrister, Archie (John Cleese), and convince him to share any information about the missing goods.
A Fish Called Wanda boasts an all-star 1980s cast, with a special pop-up performance from a young Stephen Fry. John Cleese and Kevin Klein get into all sorts of antics which encourage the idea that the English are a bunch of humourless stiffs, and that Americans live by a justice system with less structure than Fight Club. The point of A Fish Called Wanda is to make you laugh, whether with the characters or, for the most part, at them.
There are no lines too sensitive to cross in this film, and as a result you get jokes about plotting to kill little old ladies, actually killing little dogs, positively murdering one’s reputation, and the complete massacre of an aquarium’s inhabitants. Everyone has a pretty rough time of life in A Fish Called Wanda, especially the fish called Wanda… and perhaps also Archie who reaches his peak of grace whist performing a strip-tease and reciting Russian.
It’s not the cleverest theft movie and it’s not the finniest comedy, but there is something undeniably unique about this film. It’s the kind of laugh and greed-driven romance you’re not going to find anywhere else. Plus the gags, especially from Kevin Kline, are driven by raw stupidity; Otto may study Nietzsche, but his approach to life follows the wise philosophies of a murderous Olaf the Snowman. A Fish Called Wanda is light, funny, and never demanding of too much brainpower. It’s an excellent excuse to watch Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese in their prime. I award it 7 fish out of a once-brimming tank of 10.