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Film / Fierce Creatures

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Fierce Creatures (1997) is a Spiritual Successor to A Fish Called Wanda, starring the four main players from the earlier film: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin. The movie was written by John Cleese and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.

The story concerns a British zoo recently acquired by Australian businessman Rod McCain (Kline) and put under the management of Rollo Lee (Cleese). In order to boost profits, Lee decides to institute a "fierce creatures" policy that means that only potentially deadly animals will be featured in the zoo. He then has to justify his actions when his bosses, Rod's son Vince (also played by Kline) and sexy Willa (Curtis) arrive.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Rollo Lee is constantly being being caught by Willa in embarrassing and seemingly lurid situations (such as being caught with half-dressed and nubile young lady zookeepers, and a sheep in his bedroom). They all have perfectly innocent but very convoluted and unlikely explanations.
    Zoo Patron: I can see why they keep him in a cage.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelisation reveals that Rollo is the brother of Archie from A Fish Called Wanda. "Roland Leach" changed his name in an attempt to get ahead in the Royal Hong Kong Police.
  • Artistic License: Do not try to look a gorilla in the eyes like Wilma does! It won't bond with you, it'll beat you to death for what it sees as an insolent challenge.
  • Ascended to Carnivorism: Lampshaded, as it's what the zookeepers want Rollo to think so he'll keep their animals.
  • Asshole Victim: Rod McCain. It says a lot that when his own son finds out he's dead, he starts to cry out of sheer joy.
  • Bad Boss: Rod McCain. Not even his son is safe from potential George Jetson Job Security, he belittles and insults everybody, and in the several times he talks to Willa, he doesn't even try to tone down the sexual harassment.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals:
    • Both Vince and Rod have no problem with Rollo shooting the animals.
    • Subverted with Rollo, who seemingly kills the animals. Only to be spotted hiding them in his house.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Vince finally realises his father's dead, he sags against a wall, seemingly broken up. When he turns round, however, it quickly becomes apparent that he's crying from delight over the fact his hated father is dead.
  • Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Rollo only pretends to shoot the cute, fuzzy animals. He instead keeps them hidden in his room.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: What Rollo is presumed to be doing when caught with a sheep in his room.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When this fails to get Bugsy to shut up, Vince breaks out the gun. That doesn't work either.
  • Blatant Lies: This exchange.
    Rod: I'm all out of money.
    Vince: You've got six billion dollars!
    Rod: Seven, but times are tough.
    • When Rollo institutes the "fierce creatures" policy and apparently starts to enforce it by taking away any animals that don't follow it and (seemingly) shooting them himself, the rest of the staff starts to do whatever it takes to protect the animals. Cut to descriptions of being mauled by sheep, with artfully-applied ketchup "slash marks" included.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • People tend to disregard Buggsy's Motor Mouth ramblings, but he does make some good points.
      • He predicts that forcing Rollo into a corner by giving him a choice between killing the adorable animals that aren't fierce or changing the fierce creatures policy might backfire, and it does (although not in the way they think).
      • By having one of his spiders scare Rollo, he points out that an animal doesn't actually have to be dangerous to be perceived as fierce by some people.
    • Neville is instantly suspicious about Rod's supposed suicide and protests the flaws in the story, but the police buy it hook, line, and sinker.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal gun — a little Beretta M-1934 pistol that is among the arsenal Rollo keeps in his office sees its use as this in the third act by Rod pulling it out to try to shoot Bugsy, then accidentally killing Rod via Boom, Headshot! and subsequently to fake his suicide.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Vince's ability to mimic his father's Kiwi accent.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Vince can't understand why Willa (or anyone else for that matter) doesn't think his advertising schemes over the animals isn't "genius":
    Vince: It's brilliant! It's never been done before!
    Willa: [with a You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me! expression] Try to work out why.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: While he's not doing anything illegal, Rod is a predatory businessman who debases every business he acquires in the name of pure profit.
  • Do Wrong, Right:
    • Discussed when Vince 'warns' Willa that people might fear she's sleeping her way to the top. Willa replies "as long as they don't think I'm sleeping my way to the middle".
    • When Vince confesses (read: brags) to Willa that he's embezzled the zoo's earnings, Willa tells Rollo, who says their first priority is to examine the zoo's financial records and see whether the crime is obvious to the people at Octopus. To their dismay, it is stupidly obvious, and the scene quickly cuts to Rod examining the same records and scoffing, "I don't believe it..." Per the novelization, Rod is not the least bit surprised that Vince has tried to rip him off, but what disappoints and disgusts him is that he couldn't even manage a halfway-decent cover-up.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Neville (Rod's assistant) has some issues with his.
  • Double Entendre: Willa bends forward displaying an immense amount of cleavage to the camera and starts asking how you can resist the urge to reach out and fondle them. She is of course bending forward to look at some very cute animals in the zoo.
  • Epic Fail: Bugsy accidentally killing Rod. Not so much the fact he shot him, but the fact that by shooting him, he doomed his comrades to very swift life imprisonment. Not to mention, Rod had decided to keep the zoo open, mere seconds beforehand. Rollo points out how thoroughly they're all screwed in a tirade dripping with sarcasm (see below).
  • Exact Words: Willa thinks Rollo is used to threesomes and open relationships, so she asks if one woman would be enough to satisfy him. He tells her that he hasn't been with 'one' woman for a long time.
  • Expy: Rod McCain, eccentric antipodean billionaire with a huge global business empire whose main business strategy is to buy out struggling entertainment businesses, revamp them to appeal to the lowest common denominator, then sell them off (and is named after a certain animal, no less). Nope, doesn't sound like Rupert Murdoch at all... Particularly since the zoo was one of the acquisitions he "snatched from that bastard Murdoch" in the first place.
  • Expy Coexistence: Rod McCain is a blatant parody of Rupert Murdoch, but in one scene Rod makes clear Murdoch also exists in the film's universe by snarking that he bought the park from him and calls him a bastard in the same sentence.
  • Fanservice: One of Vince's new marketing schemes is to have the zookeepers dress in animal costumes like at Disneyland. One female keeper is dressed rather seductively as a leopard.
  • Freudian Slippery Slope: John Cleese has a brilliant monologue about lemurs wherein he is unable to go five words without mentioning Jamie Lee Curtis' breasts. He even describes it as a "Freudian slit... -slut!... -slot!"
  • Friend to All Living Things: The zookeepers are all quite affectionate toward both their own animals and everyone else's and are determined to keep their animals from being killed or shipped away.
  • Funny Background Event: The animatronic panda is later seen with an "Out of Order" sign hanging around its neck.
  • Gasshole: Rod McCain. He farts as he dies.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Vince.
    Vince: What about a small advance on my inheritance?
    Rod: What inheritance?
    Vince: I'm your son, you have to leave me something.
    Rod: Why?
    Vince: 'Cause you screwed up my whole childhood!
    Rod: How could I have? Wasn't even there.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: The movie takes place mainly at the zoo.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After overhearing Rollo on the phone and thinking he's in the midst of a four-way with three hot young zookeepers, Vince says it's disgusting how people abuse positions of power for personal gratification. As he's saying this, he's stripping down to his underwear in order to seduce Willa.
  • I Control My Minions Through...
    Di: You mean Octopus is ruled by fear?
    Rollo: No, no. Terror.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: How Bugsy accidentally kills Rod.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Rod is going to cut Vince out of the will. By not actually dying; he's going to freeze himself and live forever, with his property going into a trust in the interim.
  • Irony: Neville falls for Vince's disguise as Rod, but thinks the actual Rod's corpse is a fake.
  • Jerkass: Rod McCain. Among other ways to belittle his son, he once said that his mother farted him out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rollo puts on the appearance of a tough, no-nonsense type with a sharp tongue, but it's mostly bluster and he's pretty nice underneath it all.
  • Little Black Dress: Willa has one naturally. She's even wearing it on the poster.
  • Little Useless Gun: The Beretta M-1934 (chambered in .380, but Bugsy mistakenly identifies it as shooting .32 ACP) that is used to kill Rod McCain looks like a toy gun and Rod even belittles it and laughs when he sees it (but uses it because it's the only gun around). A single accidental Boom, Headshot! later, nobody's laughing.
  • Metaphorgotten: Rod McCain claims "Sheep are exactly like people, you know. Give 'em a couple of meals a day, they just stand there quietly... 'til you eat 'em."
  • Motor Mouth: Oh God, Bugsy. Even Vince threatening to shoot him if he doesn't shut up doesn't work. It makes his eventual stunned silence all the more effective.
    Vince: You would rather talk than live, wouldn't you?!
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jamie Lee Curtis. As Roger Ebert puts it, she dresses as businesswomen would dress if careerwear was designed by Maidenform. (Or maybe more like a stripper in character as a businesswoman.) Vince even says people might get the wrong idea if she dresses like that around the office.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The assistant sea lion keeper is named Sky in the book but has no name in the film.
  • Network Decay: What a nice cyberpunked rejoicing!
    Nev: Beijing called. We've got the television rights to their public executions.
    Rod: Worldwide?
    Nev: Five guys a week, guaranteed!
    Rod: Beauty! This is what satellite television was invented for. Totally cross-cultural.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: "No animals were harmed in the making of this film, only humans."
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • Two female zookeepers start jumping on Rollo and kissing him. Vince and the patrons think he's about to have a threesome, but they had actually just found out he didn't kill their animals and are kissing him with relief.
    • Rollo is seen coming out of a closet pantsless, with an Intimate Open Shirt, all sweaty, sighing "never again, at my age", with two women in their underwear in the other room. Willa predictably does not assume they were hiding in the closet with a tarantula on the loose.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: Played with, first successfully to disarm a gunman then, while explaining that the safety was on all the time it ventures into I Just Shot Marvin in the Face.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: When Rod is shot in the head, a plan is quickly concocted to have Vince play his father and then pretend to commit suicide. This works well since both characters are played by Kevin Kline.
  • People Zoo: Rollo and his office are exhibited in a cage at the zoo as one of the novelties Vince tries to enact.
  • Pummeling the Corpse: Once it finally gets through to Vince's brain that his hated father is dead, he expresses his joy this way.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Vince indulges in this while pummeling his father's corpse.
    Vince: [Overjoyed] You're dead! You're dead! You're dead! You BIG- [Punch!] FAT- [Punch!] BASTARD!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Three beauties:
    • Rollo, finally admitting what he really thinks of his employer, Rod McCain:
      Rollo: Right, right, I'll tell you! I think the whole Octopus philosophy is poison. The only aim of any and every McCain business is to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize, et cetera, et cetera, without ever running a single one of them really well. And if anyone ever raises the question of quality, they're immediately attacked as an elitist, because at Octopus it's considered morally offensive to talk about anything but money. All so that Mr. Rod McCain can feel a little more powerful every day. That's why, instead of running this wonderful zoo properly, we've got to spoil it, in order to finance his next mindless acquisition.
    • Willa, to Vince, who admits to having stolen the zoo's earnings:
      Willa: You know what you are? You're pronoid... It means that in spite of all the available evidence, you actually think that people like you. Your perception of life is that it's one long benefit dinner in your honor, with everyone cheering you on and wanting you to win everything. You think you're the prince, Vince. Well, you are going to put every cent back into that zoo account, or I am going to call your Daddy and tell on you!
    • Rollo, after Bugsy accidentally shoots Vince's father dead.:
      Rollo: Oh, great. Terrific. He decides to keep the zoo open, so you kill him. Brilliant. Well done. Thank you so much, especially for shooting him right between the eyes so that it doesn't look like an accident. Because the people at Octopus will know he was coming here to close us down. So there's our motive for murdering him. Stunning. Well, Mr. Brain of Britain, what are we going to tell the police who are, of course, already on their way here? Another example of the thoroughness of your plan. Go on. I'm all ears.
      (Bugsy stammers helplessly.)
      Rollo: What do you suggest we do with the dead body of the incredibly famous man who you have just... ASSASSINATED?
  • Right in Front of Me: Rollo Lee mouthing off to the people he doesn't know are his bosses:
    Rollo: God, you're always so pushy, you Americans! I mean, who the hell do you think you are?!
    Willa: Willa Weston.
    Vince: Vince McCain.
    Rollo: ...Welcome to Marwood Zoo!
  • Running Gag: Rollo keeps ending up in situations that make people think he's some promiscuous Sex God.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Beautiful plumage", "Flesh wound", and of course, calling Willa "Wanda".
    • Bugsy can't stop talking until the moment where he kills someone, at which point he shuts up. In A Fish Called Wanda, Ken (played by the same actor) cannot talk because of his stutter, until he kills someone, at which point he suddenly talks normally and won't shut up.
    • Furthermore, the character of Bugsy has the same accent and manner of rambling on, whether or not anybody is listening, of the character Mr. Pither, also from Monty Python's Flying Circus and also played by Michael Palin.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Vince. Willa describes him as "pronoid"; the opposite of paranoid. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he thinks he is admired, respected, and popular. Needless to say, not a single other character can stand him.
  • Spiritual Successor: To A Fish Called Wanda. In Poland the movie is even called A Lemur Called Rollo
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Played for Laughs. Rod takes a bullet right between the eyes, but stays alive and cogent just long enough to tell the shooter, "you're fired", before expiring. Followed by this exchange:
    Vince: He's gotta be cryogenically frozen until they find a cure!
    Willa: A cure? Vince, he has a bullet in the brain!
    Vince: Well, get more ice!
    Willa: Vince, there is no cure for a bullet in the brain! It is very fatal.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Rod and Vince McCain, both played by Kevin Kline.
  • Urban Legend Love Life: The movie demonstrates from the inside how this can happen unintentionally. It turns out the process is similar to that which makes an Accidental Pervert, but with more of a tendency towards Accidental Innuendo.
  • Verbal Backspace: Rollo loses it and gives his zoo's employees a scathing critique of their new corporate owner... then notices one of that owner's representatives right behind him:
    Rollo: (Without flinching) On the other hand, he is a remarkable man...
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Pip names her lemur "Rollo" to discourage Rollo from shooting it. It doesn't appear to work. This leads to hilarity later when Rollo is taking "Rollo" for a "walk" (by wheeling his cage around:
    Rollo: Come on, Rollo, let's leave the loony American to himself.
    Vince: "Come on, Rollo"? He's talking to himself, and I'm the loony!
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The novelization's prologue provides one for the characters of A Fish Called Wanda, including Archie, Wanda, Ken, and Otto.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: A meta-example. Kevin Kline plays both Rod and Vince McCain in the film, and Vince McCain also plays his own father, albeit with such unprofessional makeup techniques as turning his hair grey with flea powder and stuffing his cheeks with cotton balls and his jacket with toilet paper. Neville has this reaction to Vince as Rod.