Pin It
Favorite

DVD Review 

by Michael Bowen & r & & r & A Fish Called Wanda & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ow did a low-budget black comedy about four double-crossing jewel thieves become 1989's most-rented videotape? An unlikely boy (stiff British barrister John Cleese) gets the con girl (fast-talking Yank Jamie Lee Curtis), so that solves the equation for romantic comedy. But A Fish Called Wanda also appeals with its combination of slapstick (Michael Palin's stuttering animal lover) and pseudo-intellect (Kevin Kline's Nietzsche-quoting psychopath). By splitting directorial duties (elderly master Charlie Crichton handled the camera placement while Cleese dealt with the actors) and by obsessing over details (he wrote 13 screenplay drafts over six years), Cleese created a classic comedy that's silly-smart-ridiculous-loving all at the same time.





In the commentary and featurettes on the new two-disc collector's edition, Cleese reveals many insights about his craft. For example, says Cleese, conflict in comedy works best not when it's between characters but within a single character. That's why the humor works when Cleese's lawyer, normally proper and respectable, starts doing outlandish things like burgling his own home and cavorting nakedly in other people's apartments.





The conventional wisdom is that farce works better onstage than in a movie (because theater audiences can view the entire stage at once). But Cleese points out how Crichton, by minimizing cuts and close-ups in one door-slamming sequence, duplicates the wide-angle hilarity of onstage slapstick.


Cleese was puzzled that audiences weren't upset by the murder of an old lady and her dogs but got all squishy when Kline started munching on Palin's tropical fish. Once a character is introduced as minor and unlikable, he decides, they release themselves from any obligation to sympathize.


Of course, careful planning was supplemented by great casting. Kline's most quoted lines -- "I'm disappointed!" and "Don't call me stupid" -- are only part of the dim-bulb ninja-posing show that he puts on in his Oscar-winning performance. (The trivia track reveals that Kline based his oafish hit man on G. Gordon Liddy.)





For all their care in filming and editing Wanda, however, Cleese and Crichton mistakenly deleted one scene. It had Cleese trying to obtain crucial information and overcome Palin's character's stutter by rummaging all through a flat for something to write with -- a pencil, a typewriter, toothpaste, blood, anything. Like the released version of Wanda, it's frantic, well thought out and very funny.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion

Bodies Human: Anatomy in Motion @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 31

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


election 2016


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Readers also liked…

  • 'Competitive Streak'

  • 'Competitive Streak'

    Why Rep. Marcus Riccelli is one of the busiest young lawmakers in Olympia
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • 'I Do Not Trust Muzlims'
  • 'I Do Not Trust Muzlims'

    Comments by the wife of Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell have raised questions about his office's impartiality
    • Feb 25, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation