Fierce Creatures

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 1/22/97)

By Monica Sullivan

One of the problems with the John Cleese comedies co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin is they've only made two of them. What, we only get to laugh until we're sick every nine years? It's bloody unfair, that's what! Like "A Fish Called Wanda", "Fierce Creatures" is strongly reminiscent of Britain's great Ealing comedies of once upon a time. Only this time, Curtis is the dish called Willa Weston who finds herself strangely attracted to the twit called Rollo Lee who's played by Cleese.

Rollo has been a loyal company man of the Rupert Murdoch-like magnate played to the hilt as always by Kevin Kline. Kline IS both Rod McCain and his goofy son Vince. Hoping to please Daddy, Vince accompanies Willa to England to re-vamp McCain's latest acquisition, a British zoo largely inhabited by cuddly animals. Cleese had wanted to adopt a policy of "fierce creatures" only for the zoo, but his idea and he are in disfavor once Willa and Vince turn up. This is pure Britcom in the sense that the English like nothing better than to wring as many laughs as possible out of a basically silly situation. The cultural references to pop icons like Steve Martin and Bruce Springsteen are for fussy Americans who require that a comedy be about something and have a definite punchline.

After 1986's ultra British "Clockwise", Cleese took care that his subsequent projects appealed equally to both sides of the Atlantic: "Fierce Creatures" works wonderfully well that way. In 93 minutes, there are something like ninety product placements, including one each for Mattel and the Wonderbra, which may explain why Curtis' measurements are the closest living approximation to an 11 1/2" vinyl creation who shall remain nameless. Other ruminations: with that hairstyle and that moustache and that florid speaking style complete with evocative gestures, is Cleese meant to remind us of Der Fuhrer? And was it only fifteen years ago that the not quite recognizable Maria Aitken starred as stylish detective Jemima Shore in Lady Antonia Fraser's "Quiet as a Nun" mystery series?

Comedy veterans Ronnie Corbert, Robert Lindsay, Derek Griffiths, Cleese's daughter Cynthia and former Bond Girl Carey Lowell turn up as dedicated zookeepers and even Gareth (Mike Gambit) Hunt is on hand as a police inspector. They all add to the considerable fun of "Fierce Creatures", a feast of slapstick and wit that's quite properly dedicated to one of the funniest Brit comics ever, the late, much missed Peter Cook.

Copyright 1997 Monica Sullivan

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