When I was a kid, there were two movies that I was drawn to every time we went to the video store to rent a movie: Sex, Lies, and Videotape, for the promise of titillation behind its cover photo of shadowy mini blinds and the blatant appearance of that potent three-letter word, and A Fish Called Wanda, also for its cover design and title, less illicit, but nevertheless adult and impenetrable, not akin to The Incredible Mr. Limpet or Splash. Do cut me some slack; I was five, six, seven years old.
Somehow, Alitalia knew that I wanted to finally make good on that childhood curiosity, and offered A Fish Called Wanda as one of forty or so films to watch on my way to Italy this Christmas. I had no idea what to expect, and my sense of stymied expectation lasted throughout the entire film (though at a point about halfway through, I did begin to wonder when it would end). I have a few misconceptions to clear up. First, Jamie Lee Curtis is not hot. It seems that, in many films, she is cast as a woman of incredible sex appeal. I am not saying that she is a bad actress; I am just saying that it is awfully challenging to play an extremely attractive woman when you look more like an ugly man. Also, John Cleese is not funny, and thus A Fish Called Wanda is not funny. I have just read that the film had a number of Academy Award nominations, even winning one for supporting actor, and that it has been ranked in the top 50 of a number of Best 100 Comedy lists. But the film is, in fact, incredibly dull, a confused jewel heist in which the four robbers are all trying to steal the loot from each other, with two of the three male robbers thinking they are in a relationship with Jamie Lee Curtis. There is an additional male character, an older, married lawyer, representing the imprisoned Cleese character, who falls for Jamie Lee as well. If anything about this film is funny, it is the idea that I am supposed to believe that three men desire this woman.