Thursday, September 27, 2012

Unheavenly Creatures: "Fierce Creatures" (1997)

The cast of "A Fish Called Wanda" reunites in this weak comedy that left me wondering just what everyone was smoking when they agreed to do this script.

John Cleese is Rollo, sent to run a small zoo in Great Britain by the mega-corporation Octopus. Octopus is owned by Rod (Kevin Kline), and Rod is consistently bothered by his ne'er-do-well son, Vince (also Kevin Kline). Rod sends Vince and newcomer Willa (Jamie Lee Curtis) to England to get the zoo's profits up. Rollo's scheme was to have the zoo display fierce bloodthirsty creatures exclusively, but Vince decides to have the animals sponsored by celebrities. Much hullabaloo ensues.

I put the blame for this lackluster comedy on a weak script and even weaker direction. While the story is not bad, the cast does not seem to be into this farce, at least "A Fish Called Wanda" had wonderful energy and MOVED. Here, the script, co-written by Cleese, goes through sadly thought out set-ups and never scores a big laugh except once or twice. Two directors are credited on the picture, since one was brought in to punch up the laugh quotient, but nothing seems to work.

Cleese scores more laughs than anyone because he is naturally funny. I missed Curtis as Wanda, here her Willa just goes along with the flow, changing her character completely on the screenplay's whim. Kline is funnier as the disgusting Rod, his Vince is nothing but yelling and mugging. Think of his scene in "A Fish Called Wanda" where he eats the fish, then expand that to an hour and a half- it does not work. Michael Palin, you ask? He fades into the background as one of a dozen zookeepers, never getting to share the spotlight that is shone on his other three co-stars.

The movie initially gets some laughs when one zookeeper tries to pass his docile charges off as ferocious beasts. Then, the final twenty minutes are pretty good, as one major character is killed and the rest of the cast tries to make it look like suicide. The middle hour of the picture is tedious and boring, with simplistic jokes and scenarios that even "Mad TV" would reject as too shallow.

I noticed that the cast has not reunited again since this 1997 release. That is a shame, they seemed to have so much fun with the first film, and we shared in that excitement. "Fierce Creatures" pales in comparison. (* *) out of five stars.

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