K-k-k-killer C-c-c-comedy

OnDVD: A Fish Called Wanda: Special Edition

Editor's note—We are re-running the following because right after this preview appeared in July, the film's distributor canceled its release. Tuesday is the newly confirmed release date.

Carol Burnett once said that comedy is tragedy plus time. In 1988's A Fish Called Wanda, after animal-loving, stuttering hitman Ken (Michael Palin) struggles unsuccessfully a number of times to whack an old lady who witnessed a diamond heist, only to keep accidentally offing her dogs and getting depressed each time . . . he finally gives the gal a heart attack with the incessant pooch-killing. After she croaks, he laughs. And we laugh. Really damn hard because when it comes to black comedy with a healthy appreciation of the absurdity of love, death and the things that really matter, A Fish Called Wanda is second to none.

Finally available as a deluxe DVD presentation, Wanda starts with a jewel heist gone wrong and descends rapidly into mistaken identity, revenge, murder . . . all of it piss-yourself hilarious, mind you. It remains one of the best comedies of the 1980s and a vital experiment in culture-clash casting: in one corner, Monty Python icons John Cleese (as lovesick, hapless London barrister Archie Leach) and Palin deliver some of their finest work. The raucous American presence is represented by Jamie Lee Curtis—vixen-perfect as the seductive Wanda (not to be confused with Ken's angelfish, who meets a soggy end)—and Kevin Kline. Ah, Kevin Kline: it grows increasingly rare that an actor receives an Academy Award for the role he really deserves it for, much less for a comedy. There's no denying Kline's Oscar-winning turn as Otto, Wanda's arrogant, hyperviolent, intensely stupid boyfriend ("DON'T call me stupid!"), is the definition of a tour de force. Just don't ask Otto what that means.

There are so many more quotes worth tossing around, but they deserve to be discovered—or rediscovered—on your own. And while you're at it, grok the release's terrific extras, including more than 25 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, a making-of feature, commentary with Cleese, and more.

Also recommended this week: Alias: The Complete Series; Dr. Katz: Professional TherapistSeason 2; The Double Life of Veronique(Criterion); Family Affair: Season 2; An Inconvenient Truth; Miracle on 34th Street: Special Edition; Pandora's Box (Criterion); The Preston Sturges Collection.

 
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