Friday, May 20, 2011

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) "Hey! Great Fish!"

“The central message of Buddhism is not ‘Every man for himself.’” –Wanda

Yet that is the central message of this sharp witted, strange, quick action movie. Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a use ‘em and lose ‘em kinda girl with her eye set solely on money that she helped steal from a bank. She will do what she needs to and use who she needs to and is not really into sharing; yet she loves other languages. Sounds like a real great character right? Well, even though I was stunned by how many men she could seduce in a day and then treat badly, I still wanted her to win. So whether she was lying to her first boyfriend, George (Tom Georgeson), trying to ‘off’ the second one, a dumb, fish-eating, definitely not her brother, Otto(Kevin Kline), breaking up the marriage of the third guy, an easily corruptible lawyer, Archie (John Cleese), or leading on poor, stuttering Ken (Michael Palin), the audience wants her to find the money. Well, through a series of English-bashing comments, blundered actions, and interesting phrases, she does get the money but also seems to decide that Archie is a good guy, and they fly away together with the money to start… wait a minute… a leper colony! Because, hey, even though she was only using him and interested in his money, was leading on two other guys at the time, broke many laws he swore to enforce, and was going to leave him behind when she flew to Rio, he still loved her.

This movie was entertaining and funny. I was a little let down because I thought, based on other peoples’ comments, that it would be much funnier. I did laugh from time to time, so maybe it just had too much built-up hype. But hey, in my opinion movies can always be funnier, so it could use some more ridiculous, slap-stick comedy. The best part of this movie had to be some of the never-before-heard- of, or even thought of, quotes that were said throughout. Lines like “apes don't read philosophy,” stuck out to me and I found myself asking if the character really said what I thought he/she just said. I mean, they were really kind of surprising, which added to the humor factor and enhanced the ridiculous scene. When does one expect to hear a man yell “I’m-sorry-I-ate-your-fish” while a slow moving steam roller is bearing down on his cement trapped body? I smile thinking about it. I also thought the use of repetition was good in the movie. This technique is often noticed in poetry, but not so much in film. I was glad to see it had the same effect. The repeated lines like, “don’t call me stupid” gave some consistency to the film, was a unifying thought in a film with many, many different ones, and allowed the audience something to refer back and come back to. In addition, this line especially added to the funniness because the audience could begin to predict when the line was going to be said and understand how obsessed Otto was with the way he was portrayed. The camera work was also a creative touch. The director wanted to layer on the comedic aspects in as many ways as possible, and I noticed that time was spent to do the same with the camera. Unusual camera angles and motion were used that not only brought notice to the camera, but enhanced the off-kilter aspects of the scenes.

So if you are not deterred by dogs being systematically killed off, a promiscuous leading lady, or some foul language, I would recommend watching this film. You may not sit there and think about how 80’s it is, but you will chuckle. It is sort of long and is not the funniest film, but hey, laughter is good for your mental and physical health, so any amount of it is good!

1 comment:

Vladigogo said...

For quite a while there was talk of a Wanda sequel. It never came about, but the four main actors did make a movie together about a zoo/animal park. It wasn't as good as Wanda, but interesting to see the 4 actors interact again.