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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'A Fish Called Wanda': A Jaunty British Comedy Depicting the Fallout From a Daring Diamond Heist

Movie poster for A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) is a boisterous and jaunty British comedy about a quartet of criminals who stage a high stakes diamond heist worth 20 million in US dollars. The daring caper is planned out by a London-based gangster named George (Tom Georgeson) and his stammer-inflicted protégé Ken (Michael Palin) alongside American con artists Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her lover Otto (Kevin Kline).

In the aftermath of the successful heist, Wanda and Otto double-cross George and betray him to the police—though George manages to hide the diamonds prior to incarceration. Desperate to locate the invaluable gemstones, Wanda seduces George's barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) in a desperate ploy to ascertain any clues as to their location. What ensues is a wildly rambunctious series of deceptions, double crosses and outright follies, with Cleese falling headlong into a complex web of chicanery while becoming increasingly infatuated with the alluring Wanda.

Written and directed by Cleese and Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda is a wonderfully playful escapade, awash with transgressive humor and outrageous sensibilities. Kevin Kline quite nearly steals the show as the aggressive yet dim-witted Otto, a high-energy performance that netted him a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Deft, bitingly outrageous and downright hysterical at times, it's one of the finest British comedies of the past 50 years.


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