A Fish Called Wanda
(United States, 1988)

And so I arrive at the Top 10...

Few things in life are more subjective than comedy. What one individual finds hilarious, another may find boring, offensive, or obnoxious. Some people don't "get" the Three Stooges. Some people don't "get" Chris Rock. Some people don't "get" Buster Keaton. And some people don't "get" Monty Python. It's all a matter of personal taste. And, in terms of movies, nothing has made me laugh harder or longer than A Fish Called Wanda. It is my choice for the #1 comedy of all-time, not because it has the best pedigree, or because the most critics have lauded it, but because I haven't come across anything funnier. It's like Monty Python meets Fawlty Towers (not surprising, considering John Cleese's involvement). I remember the first time I saw A Fish Called Wanda, sitting in a half-full theater on a summer weekday afternoon in 1988. I laughed until my sides hurt and tears were rolling down my cheeks. Fifteen years later, I pop the DVD into my player anytime I need a pick-me-up. I no longer laugh aloud at the film (I have seen it far too many times for that), but I never fail to chuckle a few times and smile a lot. Some readers will be offended by my choosing to place Wanda higher on the list than Citizen Kane. By doing this, I am not saying that Cleese's film is better than Welles'. I'm merely stating that I enjoy the former more. There are two or three titles in the Top 10 that will be scrutinized for their seemingly "unworthy" status for such "exalted" placement, and my argument is the same. They may not be the "best" movies, but I love them dearly.

Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
The story centers around a quartet of jewelry store robbers. George (Tom Georgeson) is the ringleader, the man who has masterminded the theft. He is assisted by his stuttering, animal-loving friend, Ken (Michael Palin), and his girlfriend, Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis). But Wanda wants the loot all to herself, and, to aid her in getting it away from George, she brings her psychotic, Nietzche-reading lover, Otto (Kevin Kline), into the gang. After the heist is successfully completed, Wanda and Otto place an anonymous call to the cops, and George is arrested. But, before he's hauled off to prison, he hides the jewels where Wanda and Otto can't find them. In order to reduce his sentence if he's found guilty, George hints that he might be willing to turn over the location of the jewels to his barrister, Archie Leach (John Cleese). As a result, the next step in Wanda's plan is to seduce Archie, a mild-mannered lawyer looking for a little romance and excitement. And Wanda, along with a jealous Otto, are on hand to do more than add just a little spice to Archie's existence. Soon, he's embroiled in the hilarious caper, and, as the situation grows progressively more convoluted, he learns that stolen jewels can make for very strange bedfellows.

A Fish Called Wanda is one of the best-constructed, funniest, and most clever comedies to grace motion picture screens in recent years. It's outrageous, offensive, and even a little sick -- and all the more enjoyable because of it. John Cleese has spent his entire career rejecting conventional comedy, and, on this occasion, there's no denying that he has hit paydirt. Nothing is sacred to Cleese, who flouts every possible definition of political correctness by satirizing homosexuals, the British, the Americans, and stutterers. And, just to prove that he's got nothing to hide, Cleese does one of the most side-splitting stripteases ever to appear on screen. It's not erotic, but what happens immediately afterwards will have you doubled over with laughter something that will happen more than once during the course of this movie.

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