REVIEW: Fierce Creatures [1997]

“Saddam Hussein presents”

Fierce Creatures is the quasi-sequel to the great A Fish Called Wanda, a movie I need to revisit as well. More of an excuse for those stars to get back together and have some fun, the film brings out some big laughs with its farce, overacting, and Monty Pythonesque absurdity of events and wordplay. It may not be great comedy, but there is enough heart and enjoyment to have a good time. Really, whenever you can see John Cleese and Michael Palin onscreen together, take it as a rare treat that may not happen again soon enough.

The plot serves as a backbone to the jokes with a wealthy entrepreneur, buying up companies to either make a profit or turnover to sell for more, making a recent purchase of an English zoo. Sending one of his TV men over to take control, Cleese, the zoo finds itself trying to get rid of all the cuddly animals for fierce, violent creatures that will bring people in. This aspect brings some nice moments as the zoo crew attempts to fool their new boss on what the true definition of fierce is. Back in the states, however, a young businesswoman, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and the business magnate’s son, a fantastically manic Kevin Kline, come up with a plan to run the zoo with advertising and drive revenue through the roof. When these two arrive at the zoo with the already incumbent Cleese, the comedy really starts to get going.

Most of the laughs come by way of Python style, not surprisingly since Cleese is one of the credited writers. The humor comes out of words most times as well as misunderstandings which snowball into stammering excuses and ramblings of innocuous information. Cleese and Palin are the kings at both respectively and their confrontations are always entertaining. Curtis, then, is pretty much the straightman in this ensemble. She has good comedic timing, but mostly the others play off of her as her body doubles as a prop to create situations of humor around. Kline, on the other hand, plays both father and son of the business family. Whether he is the loud, brash, aging billionaire or the conniving, simple-minded son biding his time until he takes over the business, he steals many of his scenes. Sometimes even stealing them from himself as the two roles go at it onscreen together at multiple occasions.

No one will be picking up this movie for its storyline. It is all about the actors and their improvisations and reactions to what is played off of them. I’m sure there are plenty of slip-ups and laughter to fill a gag reel almost as long as the film itself, but in reality, Fierce Creatures is somewhat of a blooper reel itself. The plot is really only there in order to loosely hold the comedy skits together. I wouldn’t be surprised if the gags were thought of first and the story then written around them to tie it all up. Either way, if you are looking for a good time with some laughter and levity in an otherwise depressing day, you shouldn’t be too disappointed with this selection, especially if you are a fan of British-style humor.

Fierce Creatures 6/10 | ★ ★ ½


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