MGM // 1988 // 108 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // April 21st, 1999
A tale of murder, lust, greed revenge, and seafood.
A Fish Called Wanda is one of the funniest comedies of the '80s. It is too bad that MGM didn't do a better job with this DVD release.
A Fish Called Wanda brings together the best of British and American humor all rolled around a dash of sex appeal. I had not seen this movie since its theatrical release way back in 1988. To see it again was a real treat. I found myself laughing out loud a number of times this evening. This has to be one of the funniest movies of the decade. Indeed, it ranks in the top 250 movies of all time, based on the votes cast at the IMDb.
The glue that holds this piece of work together is not so much the story, although parts of it are genuinely funny, but rather the individual performances and the way the actors feed off each other. Indeed, Kevin Kline won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role of Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. His brand of slapstick, physical, in your face humor brought him much attention and many movie offers after this performance. In fact, I believe he is still riding the wave that this part generated, not that he did not deserve the attention. He did. In fact, some of his more recent performances measure up quite well, particularly, In and Out and Dave. In fact, I can't wait to see what he does playing Bottom in the forthcoming Midsummer Night's Dream. Jamie Lee Curtis is at her best in this movie as well. Her comedic talents were on display for all to see, and were acquitted quite well. As was the work of both Michael Palin and John Cleese, as if there were any doubt about their respective comedic abilities.
This transfer was soft from the opening credits, which is a shame. I detected some blurring around edges, particularly in low-key lit night scenes. The print used was nicked and scarred to some extent as well. While a far cry from unwatchable, this disc does not even come close to some of the finer work done more recently, even by MGM. It really is too bad that we were not given a fresh hi-def, anamorphic transfer of this comedic gem of a movie. It really is unlikely to be revisited anytime soon by the studio, especially considering that the original laserdisc presentation was pan and scan only.
Although the transfer was pretty bad, the real shame here is the soundtrack. While the pan and scan laserdisc received a Dolby Surround soundtrack, we are left with a Dolby Digital mono presentation that was so thin and tinny sounding my significant other asked me to turn the movie off. Now, I don't know exactly what was included when the film was originally released in theatres, but I would have to think that in 1988 it had received something more than a simple mono track. I just don't know what MGM was thinking on this point, other than someone wanting to save some money.
In addition to the above, the disc is totally devoid of extras, save the original theatrical trailer, and ubiquitous MGM eight-page booklet/insert.
It really is too bad that such a terrific movie got such shoddy treatment from the folks over at MGM. I guess they just figured, "oh well, its just a comedy and won't make much money." Too bad.
The movie is acquitted on all counts. The disc is guilty as hell.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Eight-page Booklet Highlighting the Cast's On-and-Off-Camera Antics