Fish on poster may be deceptively sexy. You have been warned.
Otto: You know your problem? You don't like winners. Archie: Winners? Otto: Winners. Archie: Winners like... North Vietnam?
A Fish Called Wanda is a 1988 British comedy film starring Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, John CleeseandMichael Palin. The film is the final—and best known—film of legendary British comedy director Charles Crichton and its screenplay was written by Cleese and Crichton.The film features a gang of criminals who double-cross each other and involves the comedic use of a steamroller.Nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, the film is literally lethally funny (see below). Kline, who plays the eccentric thief Otto in the film, won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, a rare accomplishment for a comedic performance.There are actually two characters called Wanda in the film. One is a fish. The other is Jamie Lee Curtis.Later followed by a not-sequel with the same cast, Fierce Creatures.
This film contains examples of:
Affably Evil: Wanda is so charming that it is easy to miss just how ruthless she really is, at least prior to genuinely falling for Archie. Ken also counts; a timid animal lover who has no qualms about trying to bump off a little old lady.
Otto does it several times. Kevin Kline is a master of doing convincing foreign accents.
Archie and Otto exchange dueling examples
British Stuffiness: This film delightfully exploits and deconstructs this stereotype to the hilt. Archie's wife Wendy plays it pretty straight along with the Judge and the Old Lady with the dogs.
Lampshaded and Invoked by Archie:
Wanda, do you have any idea what it's like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of, of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone "Are you married?" and hearing "My wife left me this morning," or saying, uh, "Do you have children?" and being told they all burned to death on Wednesday. You see, Wanda, we'll all terrified of embarrassment. That's why we're so... dead.
Cultural Posturing: Otto is supremely contemptuous of the British. Archie uses this as a distraction technique at the climax.
Covers Always Lie: There are absolutely no human-sized fish in the film as shown in the "lineup" poster. The main characters don't face an identity parade, only George, who is not featured in the cover, does.
Apparently, Ken thinks killing little old ladies is better then buggering people. Also, Ken feels absolutely heartbroken about killing those poor Yorkies, but can't keep from laughing when he realizes the little old lady is dead.
Fawlty Towers Plot: The movie is built around convoluted lies. Archie trying to recover a locket and robbing his own house is one of the funniest.
Femme Fatale: Wanda, who is planning on stabbing every guy she gets involved with in the back (even Otto — when they think the loot is safely locked in the safe at the lock-up, she's seconds away from koshing Otto and running off with it before they realize it's empty). Then she ends up falling in love with Archie for real.
Wanda: "Now let me correct you on a couple of things, okay? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not 'Every man for himself.' And The London Underground is not a political movement! Those are all mistakes, Otto! I looked them up."
Large Ham: Kevin Kline gleefully chews the scenery in the movie, winning an Oscar in the process.
Nietzsche Wannabe: Otto models himself on a Nietzschean ubermensch and is constantly talking and reading about Nietzsche's philosophy. Despite being a consummate Know-Nothing Know-It-All, Nietzsche appears to be the one subject he actually knows something about.
No One Could Survive That: Ken running Otto over by a steamroller. Fortunately for Otto, it's deep cement and there's enough room for him to manage to not get flattened.
Oh, Crap: Otto is greatly amused to see that Ken is bearing down on him in a steamroller ... until he discovers that he's gotten stuck in the cement right in the steamroller's path.
Ominous Latin Chanting: "Miserere Dominus, canis mortuus est" during the funerals, latin for "Have mercy, O Lord, the dog is dead".
One Mario Limit: This trope (or the reaction to its aversion) is one of the many examples of Otto's stupidity. When he hears that Archie's daughter is named Portia (a homophone of "Porsche"), he asks why on earth he would name her after a car.
Otto is repeatedly involved in car crashes or near crashes, the first two times running the same dark red car off the road, and the third time having a minor collision with a light blue car - at the same time alerting Archie that Otto is escaping with his car. In each occasion he calls the other driver an asshole, followed - or preceded in the actual crash - with a metallic crunching noise. (Being an American, he keeps forgetting to drive on the left.)
Torture for Fun and Information: Otto stuffs food up Ken's nose while holding him prisoner. He then speaks at length about philosophy, and then starts to eat Ken's pet fish alive so he'll tell him what he wants. Hilarious.
Trivial Title: It's named after Ken's pet fish, which has very little do do with the plot. Certainly less than the human Wanda.
Unpronounceable Alias: Otto makes up the name "Mr. Manfrenjensen...den". It's made more hilarious when the person it's being given to goes on to pronounce it perfectly.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: During the character introductions, the film cuts back to George's flat just as he's finished explaining his plan, so we only get to hear about "the middle bit... about the police". The rest of the plan goes off almost without a hitch.
Video Credits: Over the opening credits, to introduce the main players.
Villain Protagonist: Three quarters of the main characters (Wanda, Otto and Ken) are thieves looking to keep their loot (and at least in the case of the first two planning to betray their leader over it.)
What Happened to the Mouse?: Archie & Wanda (and Ken) get their happily ever afters, while Otto goes to work for the South African government... but they just left George sitting in jail.
They didn't explicitly reveal what happened to him, but Archie told George that Wanda's statements in court meant that he was now certain to be jailed for a long time, and that only implicating Wanda, Ken and Otto in the robbery could reduce the sentence. Since Archie never brought them to account, we can assume that George got the original, very long sentence. On the other hand, since it was quite apparent that his barrister was having a "relationship" with the key witness, it's possible that a mistrial could've been declared. And with basically no evidence left against George (Wanda having left for South America) he certainly would have gotten off.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Parodied: Archie & Wanda move to Rio, have 17 kids, and fund a leper colony; Ken becomes Master of Ceremonies at London Sea World; Otto emigrates to South Africa (in the late 80s) and becomes Minister of Justice.
William Telling: In the bank heist in the beginning, as the four thieves are about to get away with their bank heist, Otto pulls an apple out of his sack and places it on a bystander's head. He readies his crossbow, scaring the bystander, but he's stopped by Wanda (not the fish) before he can pull the trigger.
Xanatos Speed Chess: When Archie realizes what's going on and his wife threatens divorce, he quickly makes plans for himself - and Wanda.