Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Fish Called Wanda

One of the many films sitting on my DVR that I got around to watching recently is A Fish Called Wanda. It's available on DVD, so I feel comfortable doing a full-length post on the movie.

Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) is an American in London on a mission. That mission is to take part in a jewel robbery planned by Georges (Tom Georgeson). Rounding out the group doing the heist are stutterer Ken (Michael Palin), and Otto (Kevin Kline), whom Wanda passes off as her brother. In fact, he's not her brother but her lover, which should be the first sign that something isn't quite right. Well, maybe the second; the fact that a heist is being planned at all may be the first sign that something isn't right. At any rate, the heist goes off in the first act, almost without a hitch. The one problem is that as they're driving the getaway car, they nearly run down an elderly woman walking her dogs.

As often happens in heist movies, the people involved in the heist begin to turn on each other, with Otto quickly calling in to the police that Georges committed the heist, and telling the authorities where Georges lives. The thing is, Otto and Wanda tend to get the jewels and get out of the UK all by themselves, leaving Georges and Ken high and dry. But to do that they're going to have to get the jewels, and not only do they not have the key to the locker where the jewels have been stored; they wouldn't know where that locker is, anyway.

Meanwhile, Georges has hired barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) to defend him in court, so Wanda begins to use her feminine charms on him in an attempt to get Georges to reveal to Archie where the jewels are, with her then getting the information out of Archie. There are a couple of catches. The first is that Wanda is a witness in the case, as she's going to be Georges' alibi. That means that for Archie to have any sort of relationship with her is a serious violation of British legal ethics, as if lawyers anywhere have ethics. There's a bigger problem, which is that Archie begins to fall in love with Wanda, which isn't only a problem because of those ethics, but because Archie is already married. But he continues the relationship with Wanda, and she gets the idea of double-crossing Otto and running off with Archie.

And so it goes on, with everybody trying to get information from everybody else, except for poor Georges who is still in prison awaiting trial. It all moves inexorably forward, to the ultimate madcap climax at the airport where the various characters all try to get the jewels for themselves and get out of the country.

I have two big problems with A Fish Called Wanda, however. The first is down to several scenes involving Archie in which he has to resort to a series of lies about what's really going on. I think I've mentioned several times that I tend not to be the biggest fan of what I call the "comedy of lies" where a character tells one lie and then has to compound lie on top of lie to keep of the ruse. People who are OK with that sort of comedy will probably like the movie.

The other, bigger problem that I had was with Otto. I found that character to be incredibly irritating, and not particularly funny. It was to the point that when he would be on screen doing his antics I wanted to reach through the screen and smack him. God he's an obnoxious blankety-blank. But I'm sure many of you won't find such antics tedious, and as such you'll probably really like the film.

A Fish Called Wanda is certainly a well-made film. It just wasn't quite to my taste. Maybe it will be to your taste.

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