A Fish Called Wanda

| October 2, 2017

For decades, the comedy genre has been unfairly ostracized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. In the early years of the Academy Awards, slapstick comedies were routinely recognized with nominations, as well as wins. The best example would be 1934’s It Happened One Night, which pulled off a rare feat not seen often to this day by serious dramas: it won all 5 major categories-Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. Night, though, is a rarity.

In the last 40 years, comedies have basically become afterthoughts. There are occasional blips on the radar. In 1977, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was so brilliant it couldn’t be overlooked, winning the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Apparently, comedies have to transcend themselves to be deemed worthy of award consideration. 1988 brought the world such a movie. Who would’ve thought that the stodgy, old voters at the Academy would ever nominate a movie with the name A Fish Called Wanda?

A Fish Called Wanda is the story of two Americans and two Brits who pull off a successful diamond heist. The Americans, Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto (Kevin Kline) claim to be siblings, but are really lovers that are using the Brits, George (Tom Georgeson) and Ken (Michael Palin) to help further their own nefarious plans. Wanda and Otto set George up to take the fall, hoping to take the jewels for themselves, only to have Ken gum up the works.
To find out where the jewels have been stashed, Wanda cozies up to George’s barrister (a.k.a. lawyer) Archie (John Cleese). What Wanda never planned was the possibility that her feminine wiles would lead to Archie falling in love with her. Wanda finds herself wanted, sexually or otherwise, by all 4 main male leads, which makes getting her hands on the jewels that much more difficult.

The acting in A Fish Called Wanda is top notch. Jamie Lee Curtis gives the best comedic performance of her career. John Cleese is always genius. Michael Palin as the animal loving, stuttering side man is a hoot. And what can I say about Kevin Kline? Well, the Academy Awards said it all when they (deservedly) gave him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The one major thing that I can take away from A Fish Called Wanda is that even though all the characters are likable and funny, not one of them could be considered a “good guy.” Otto is an assassin and a mental case. Ken blindly does anything horrible his boss George tells him to do. Archie blatantly cheats on his wife and absconds with stolen merchandise. And Wanda will sleep with anyone to get what she wants. Yet, through all of these horrible character traits, the audience is left in tears from the laughter these deplorable individuals bring to the screen.

A Fish Called Wanda is available on Blu-Ray from the home media masters at Arrow Video US. The Blu-Ray includes numerous special features, including 3 documentaries, 26 deleted and alternate scenes, and a special intro to the film by John Cleese, which was recorded for the film’s initial 1988 release. Wanda also includes a reversible sleeve featuring the original theatrical poster artwork as well as new art from Jacey.

A Fish Called Wanda deserves to be recognized as one of the all-time great screen comedies. If you have any doubts, buy the Blu-Ray and judge for yourself. I promise, you’ll be thanking me later.

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI
Filed in: Film, Video and DVD

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