Obviously we here at The Dissolve love Charles Crichton’s ensemble heist-thriller/romantic-comedy A Fish Called Wanda. For those who need extensive convincing, we wrote thousands upon thousands of words about it back when it was a Movie Of The Week. But for those who still haven’t seen it and just need a little push in the right direction, here’s the short version: A Fish Called Wanda is just about a perfect comedy. Scripted by and starring John Cleese as a stuffy, bored British barrister who gets his world rocked by a scamming American criminal named Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Wanda strikes a precise balance between broad comic performances and careful comic timing. When Wanda attempts to double-cross both of her lovers (a doofy-but-dangerous American assassin played by Kevin Kline, and a just-plain-dangerous British hard case played by Tom Georgeson) and pocket all the proceeds after a heist, one of them beats her to the double-cross. Part of the pleasure of the film is watching everything unwind like clockwork from there, with Wanda working her wiles on all the characters and trying to think her way out of an increasingly tangled problem. Cleese wrote himself an impeccable role—a little vain, a little wistful, and with plenty of straight-faced laugh lines. (Plus a little decorous nudity.) But he generously saved the best material for his co-stars, with Kline giving an expansive, physical performance, Curtis playing a constantly changing, duplicitous heroine for all the variety possible, and Cleese’s Monty Python partner Michael Palin stealing scenes as a shy, stuttering animal-lover trying to play ruthless killer. Wanda is endlessly quotable; this is one of those films to watch just to see where all those frequently heard catchphrases have been coming from. It’s playing HBO Comedy East at 1:25 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. Eastern, or HBO Comedy West at 4:25 p.m. Eastern. Or screw the schedule and just watch it on HBO GO, where it’s available until March 31.
March 26, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day