Directed by: Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob)
Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken
A surprisingly stylish comedy from 1988—an era not known for stylish comedies—that I have to confess I don’t like nearly as much as I’m supposed to, mostly owing to the fact that Kevin Kline never strikes me as even remotely funny when he tries too hard. And never did he try harder than in Charles Crichton’s A Fish Called Wanda. (Bear in mind that I am very much in the minority here.) It’s not enough to sink the movie for me, but Kline does compromise some of the goodwill generated by John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Palin, all of whom are at the top of their comedic game. The story involves a gang of crooks whose successful robbery goes awry thanks to their own double crossings, which in turn lead to more and more duplicity in the gang members’ attempts to set it to rights—or at least get them (more individually than collectively) what they want.
Almost as surprising as the film itself was the decision to bring in British directing veteran Charles Crichton (who also took a hand in the scenario) to helm the proceedings. Though Crichton had been responsible for one of the most acclaimed and popular of the legendary Ealing comedies of the 1950s, The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), and had been active all along in TV, he hadn’t directed a feature film since 1965. (At the time, Cleese claimed in interviews that Crichton was so old that he referred to movies as “the talkies”—a slight overstatement.) Whatever the reason behind bringing Crichton back to features one more time (this would be his last film), it paid off beautifully here.
A Fish Called Wanda is the first of four comedies being presented by Bold Life movie reviewer Marcianne Miller in Lord Auditorium at Pack Memorial Library. It will screen at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 18.