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The Cast of A Fish Called Wanda Reunites for Fierce Creatures
by Gary Johnson

Go to:
The official Web site for Fierce Creatures.

[rating: 2 of 4 stars]
A Fish Called Wanda is easily one of the funniest movies of the past decade. So why is Fierce Creatures, which features the same cast, such a letdown? Is John Cleese to blame for writing a screenplay that gives us smug, self-satisfied characters that are only occasionally fun to watch? Or are Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline to blame for their smug, self-satisfied performances?

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Fierce Creatures features the same actors, but they aren't playing the same characters as in A Fish Called Wanda. Everyone gets new roles. Kevin Kline stars as a self-indulgent son of a billionaire businessman (also Kline, in a double role) who specializes in taking over smaller companies and trimming them to the bone. Jamie Lee Curtis plays a career businesswoman who . . . that's about it. Curtis gets a paper-thin character and she doesn't do much with it, simply grinning and shoving forward her cleavage.

John Cleese gets the best character: he plays a career middle-management type named Rollo Lee, who gets stuck running a zoo. The joke is he doesn't know anything about zoos and only cares about turning a 20 percent return on the investment. To boost revenues, he begins a "fierce creatures" policy aimed at putting a deadly creature in every cage. But that means, the zoo also has to get rid of the creatures that aren't so fierce. This policy gives us some genuinely funny scenes as the zoo keepers (including Michael Palin in a disappointingly small role) try to convince Rollo that their creatures are dangerous brutes. "Just look at the fangs on that lemur. It'll take your face right off." But Rollo isn't convinced.

John Cleese and his bedmates in Fierce Creatures.

(©1997 Universal Pictures)

Meanwhile, after a corporate takeover engineered by Kline's father, Curtis is left without a job. So she decides she wants to run the zoo, and accompanied by Kline, who won't leave her side after catching a glimpse of her bulging breasts, she takes off for the sleepy little Marwood Zoo to oversee Rollo's operations. This also makes for a few funny scenes as Kline attempts to turn the zoo into a profit maker by selling advertising space in the animals' cages. He even has a tiger wearing a sideboard advertisement.

Kevin Kline checks out Jamie Lee Curtis' assets in Fierce Creatures.

(©1997 Universal Pictures)

While the premise is intriguing, the main problem with Fierce Creatures is the movie doesn't venture very far beyond just the sketchy premise stage. Someone needed to take this situation and write some interesting characters, but only Cleese gets a real character (which is another variant on the narrow-minded bureaucrat that he excels at playing). Jamie Lee Curtis' character is the equivalent of Carol Cleveland in the Monty Python Flying Circus routines, which means she's mainly on hand just to ogle. All we know about her is that she is a career businesswoman and everything else about her character then follows in stereotypical fashion. All of her personality rests in her bosom. Kevin Kline grins and poses as if he's God's gift to mankind, but unlike the crazy behavior of his character in A Fish Called Wanda, we just get a selfish rich boy who hasn't matured beyond high-school age. I didn't find his self-indulgent antics much fun to watch, such as when he's yelling about how dull zoo animals are. The dialog is obvious stuff. Gone is the witty dialog that made A Fish Called Wanda such a joy to watch.

Fierce Creatures contains several genuinely funny scenes, but the movie works too hard at being zany, and only creates a pre-fabricated brand of off-the-wall humor. For example, when a spider gets loose, everyone immediately has to strip off all their clothes to find the spider. This kind of joke might work in a Three Stooges routine, but when delivered by John Cleese and company, it only disappoints.

A Universal Pictures Production


Rollo LeeJohn Cleese
Willa WestonJamie Lee Curtis
Vince McCainKevin Kline
Rod McCainKevin Kline
Bugsy MaloneMichael Palin
Reggie SealionsRonnie Corbett
Cub FelinesCarey Lowell
Syndney Small MammalsRobert Lindsay
Neville ColtraneBille Brown
Gerry UngulatesDerek Griffiths
Pip Small MammalsCynthia Cleese
Directed byRobert Young
Fred Schepisi
Produced byMichael Shamberg
John Cleese
Executive ProducerSteve Abbott
Co-ProducerPatricia Carr
ScreenwritersJohn Cleese
Iain Johnstone
Director of PhotographyAdrian Biddle
Ian Baker
Production DesignerRoger Murray-Leach
Costume DesignerHazel Pethig
Film EditorRobert Gibson
Music Composer and ConductorJerry Goldsmith
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