Fierce Creatures (1997)

(On Cable TV, September 2015) So it turns out that I was in the mood for a farce and didn’t even know it.  Upon its release, Fierce Creatures soon became known as “the not-as-good companion film to A Fish Called Wanda”, featuring many of the same cast and crew and resonances in plotting.  Not having seen A Fish Called Wanda yet (this will change soon), that freed me to enjoy Fierce Creatures on its own merits and while not all of it works as well, it does have considerable charm and strong moments.  Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the film (besides the zoo environment, and the sympathetic role given to the animal minders) is how clever the script can be in acknowledging and responding to comic clichés.  The first half of the film, for instance, has a ton of dumb plans that end up easily detected and defused by the protagonist: in lesser films, those dumb plans would have carried the day.  (It also heightens the stakes for the film’s last fifteen minutes, in which another dumb plan it set up –will it be detected and defused as well?)  Otherwise, the film features strong roles for John Cleese as the gradually sympathetic protagonist and Kevin Kline as two imbecilic antagonists, while Jamie Lee Curtis unusually plays up her sex-appeal.  The innuendos work, the sight-gags can be very funny and if the film’s first fifteen minutes feel a bit disconnected, much of the film is pleasant enough to watch, building up to a few good set-pieces. (The running gag about the protagonist’s perceived insatiable sexual appetite gets funnier and funnier.)  Nearly twenty-five years later, Fierce Creatures remains a well-executed comedy that stands on its own.

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