I hadn’t seen A Fish Called Wanda in so long, I was worried that what few memories I had of it were too colored by hindsight and nostalgia, and that the film itself couldn’t possibly match what I remembered. Good thing the film was too happy with having a good time to be worried about my preconceptions. A Fish Called Wanda had quite the pedigree, with Charles Crichton as director and co-screenwriter, his partner in writing the script, John Cleese, who also stars, alongside his Monty Python mate Michael Palin, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline rounding out the main characters. Is the film ultimately worth the efforts of those involved? Yes, yes it is.
Curtis and Kline are Wanda and Otto, two would-be master thieves and lovers (under the guise of brother and sister) who get brought onto a jewel heist in London with actual robber George and his stuttering co-worker Ken. After the robbery, a convoluted series of events leaves George in jail, the only one with the knowledge of where the stolen diamonds are, and Wanda and Otto desperate to glean the information out of him, even after being the ones who turned George in. To get the info, Wanda decides to seduce George’s barrister, Archie Leach (Cleese), a plan of action that Otto is none too thrilled with, and hilarity ensues as everyone involved tries to get their hands on where the jewels are hiding. Hilarity aside, this was a pretty nice production, in particular the writing and the acting. But A Fish Called Wanda isn’t on the list for those things (though they do help a good deal); A Fish Called Wanda is generally regarded as one of the funniest films of all time. It’s technically a British film, and with two Pythons in the cast (with one writing the screenplay), you can bet your salt that the film will be rife with British humor. Now, British humor can be a good thing or a poor thing, depending on one’s mood and general proclivity towards comedy, but here, it works splendidly. Much of the humor comes from the characters interacting with each other in various ways, and it is here that Kline’s Otto ends up stealing the show, as he is largely responsible for generally cocking things up with his antics. Best of all, I loved when the film would self-reference by using recurring jokes, which I’ve always found to be the funniest kind. Really, there’s so many different types of humor here that there’s basically no reason to not find something to enjoy about this film, as long as you have a funny bone in the first place.
There’s a story, even included on the film’s Wikipedia page (as of this writing), that a Danish man actually died laughing while watching this film. Obviously, since I’m writing this, I didn’t have nearly the same reaction as that man did, but I still had a ripping good time. A Fish Called Wanda, uncommon for a comedy, ended up with three Academy Award nominations, for Crichton as director, Crichton and Cleese as screenwriters, and Kline as supporting actor, with Kline famously winning the award, exceptionally rare for a comedic performance, especially in this day and age. That, to me, only adds to the pedigree I’ve mentioned regarding this one’s credentials. It may not get enough votes to be called the most classic comedy on the list, but A Fish Called Wanda is definitely in the running for the title of one of the funniest.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10