There are two Wandas, actually, the one of the title and its human counterpart who is just as slippery. Charles Crichton’s comedy has something for the British, the Americans and anybody who likes to have a knee-slapping time, especially at the end of a tough year.
Written by Monty Python alumnus John Cleese, A Fish Called Wanda combines the thrills of the heist film with a send-up of stereotyped British and American manners. Unrelentingly funny, with characters as ridiculous as they are believable, A Fish Called Wanda even led to the death of a moviegoer upon its release in 1988. You will hopefully not die laughing like the poor audiologist, but you might have a stomach ache from all the chortling.
The movie can be rented from Prime Video and Apple TV+. A Fish Called Wanda yielded a sequel, Fierce Creatures, which is best left untouched to protect the reputation of the first production.
A quartet of crooks who back-stab each other in the process of stealing diamonds runs into a lawyer trapped in a loveless marriage. Archibald Leach (Cleese) is smitten as soon as he meets Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is playing him just as she is her lovers George (Tom Georgeson) and Otto (Kevin Kline). George’s aide Ken (Michael Palin) holds the key to the fortune, which he soon comes to regret.
Cleese, Curtis, Kline and Palin have brilliant scenes to showcase their respective talents. If Cleese is a hoot as the pucca barrister who loses his poise whenever he sees Wanda, Curtis – cast against type – is a super-smooth femme fatale.
Palin is a knockout as Ken, who has a deadly stutter and an abiding love for animals. Kline’s dim-witted and psychotic Otto has some of the most hare-brained scenes and lines. A self-styled philosopher who gets turned on up armpit odour and ardently believes that the London Underground is a political movement, Otto is the movie’s anarchic heart, just like the Archibald-Wanda coupling is its sweet core.