Zoo comedy is a keeper
Gazette file photo
DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION. Above: The cast of Fierce Creatures poses for the Disney World mascots' reunion. Below: Jamie Lee Curtis helps Kevin Kline see her point of view.
Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin
Directed by Robert Young and Fred Shepisi
At Galleria, 7:20 and 9:40 p.m.
The seven-year wait is over. And for your patience, the cast of A Fish Called Wanda has re-assembled to try and make you smile again. This is realized in Fierce Creatures, its second tribute to the American-screwball and British-ealing comedy traditions.
A difficult task when watching this movie is separating it from the group's last effort. This is a collaborative project from a group of comic actors that know they work well together, not a sequel. However, they use similar techniques which make comparisons impossible to ignore.
Kevin Kline plays dual roles in Fierce Creatures. Vince McCain is an arrogant, vacuous American, not unlike his previous role as Otto in Wanda. Kline has huge shoes to fill. Unfortunately, he ends up swimming in them with what appears to be a watered-down version of his Wanda character. He will make you laugh but you won't fall out of your seat.
His other character is Vince's insanelywealthy father Rod McCain. Kline masters an Australian accent with this character. He can pull off an affectation as he's done before (see French Kiss for more details), but beyond the accent, the character is flagellant.
When it comes to comedies, delayed erotic fulfillment is the safest road to a movie-goer's laugh track. Most of Fierce Creatures' humour derives from the sexual tension between Vince, Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Rollo Lee (John Cleese). Curtis uses her sculpted mammalian protuberances to their comic best. When in doubt, a solid boob joke is good for a guffaw but Rollo's and Vince's posturing for Willa's affections is effective.
Cleese gives a strong performance as the ex-military officer who assumes the role of manager at a zoo owned by Rod McCain. Cleese's Rollo attempts to increase revenue by turning the zoo into a place inhabited only by fierce creatures. Cleese hits the proverbial humour pocket sweetly by giving just enough physical comedy.
Cleese and Curtis have good on-screen chemistry, which compensates for areas of weakness in the script. For example, a scene that begins slowly with typical Freudian slippage gains momentum with Cleese's acute sense of comic timing. He possesses an uncanny ability to verbally fumble with grace.
Curtis is up to the task of the comedic stoicism required for this scene. Unfortunately, she is relegated to using her physical attributes for her comic source, despite her capabilities in executing other comedic elements as she demonstrated remarkably in 1995's True Lies.
Michael Palin's character is so markedly different than his stuttering predecessor Ken, that it takes a few seconds to recognize him. His mouth rarely closes when he's on screen he makes verbal diarrhea smell like roses.
Another problem with this film stems from overlapping lines, which work to emphasize chaotic situations, but drown out the wit readily available from this comically buoyant cast.
Give the producers of this film credit for not relying on cutesy animal pranks which animal movies are want to do. Although this film relies on the animals for situations, it is the humans who supply the comedy.
Watch for some clever background stuff. A good movie usually contains peripheral material easily missed if you're not paying attention.
A Fish Called Wanda is a must-see-now movie. Fierce Creatures is the should-see-at-some-point type. Definitely worth the price of admission, but there's no rush.