A Fish Called Wanda


A Fish Called Wanda is a unique film. It stems from the incredible genius provided by John Cleese, who wrote and co-starred. Wanda is a comedy that can stand the test of time and be viewed and enjoyed in a vacuum. It may have been made a generation ago (1988; before I was born for those unaware), but the humor does not rely on events current at the time of its release in order to be funny; it just is.



Four oddball criminals rob a bank of some very precious jewels. When two (Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline) try to double-cross the leader, Georges (Tom Georgeson), they come to find that he may have been equally untrustworthy. While stuttering Ken (Michael Palin) aids in securing the jewels, barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) is dragged into the mess by Curtis, the femme fatale.


Palin and Cleese bring the charm and smart humor that made them famous in the Monty Python crew. Palin’s debilitating stutter and overtly dimwitted nature make him the only truly sympathetic character in the film. Curtis, on the other hand, is great as Wanda, who uses her feminine guile to get what she wants.

Kline, though, who won the Oscar here for Actor in a Supporting Role, upstages them all. By today’s standards, his performance is completely over the top, but still hilarious. Otto is a faux intellectual with jealousy issues and a penchant for boastfulness. A perfect mix for a criminal trying to remain inconspicuous in order to flee the country.

a fish called wanda 2

Wanda begins my effort to watch some of the more classic films—more to come this week—and it did not disappoint. From Cleese and Kline toying with one another to Curtis sweetly moving between damsel in distress and ruthless crook filled with avarice, A Fish Called Wanda has it all. For someone of my generation, it takes a few minutes to adapt to the style and accept Kline’s absurdities (e.g. his “Italian”), but it’s entirely worth a bit of patience.

    • meg murphy
    • July 1st, 2013

    Classics from the ’60’s if you want to venture back that far…I would welcome your review of “A Man for All Seasons” and “The Lion in Winter” two of my favorite films. Brilliant dialogue and compelling historical content.

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