Fierce Creatures (12)

Directed by Robert Young & Fred Schepisi
Starring John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin

The Fish Called Wanda team are back together for this not-a-sequel comedy about a small zoo's fight for survival after a conglomerate takes over the zoo. The actors play very similar roles to their Wanda ones. Cleese is another pompous buttoned down Englishman, pursued by beautiful and sexy American Curtis. Kline is the unbalanced manic one, although here he gets to play two roles, and Michael Palin is the comic relief eccentric.
This film has taken a while to be released, and the ending had to be reshot after preview audiences objected to Kline's character being killed off- hence Fred Schepisi's involvement. However, this is still a pretty funny film. Cleese co-wrote it, and the premise of a zoo that only has dangerous animals is an old Monty Python idea. Indeed, Cleese has stuck to tried and tested ideas. The comedy is at least half Fawlty Towers and Monty Python gags. We have Cleese as frustrated Basil Fawlty type zoo boss, jumping to conclusions and arguing with visitors that is very reminiscent of a certain Torquay hotel, and the efforts of the zoo keepers to convince Cleese that their fluffy cuddly animals are killers(see the Meerkats, the pirhana of the desert!), and indeed Michael Palin's whole character is very Monty Python. Of course, this is not neccessarily a bad thing. There are many of us that enjoy that sort of humour. It just isn't terribly original.
Kevin Kline's energy and flair for comedy again shine. He plays an obnoxious Australian media tycoon and also his stupid son. He was also due to play a drag role, but that part was sadly axed. Kline is always worth seeing.
Add to this a good, and familiar looking supporting cast-Maria Aitken is another Wanda survivor, Robert Lindsay, Ronnie Corbett and Derek Griffith, and you have an enjoyable comedy. It doesn't have the freshness of the team's first effort. John Cleese is looking his age now, and his hair and moustache are very obviously dyed. I personally thought he didn't cut it as a sex symbol here, although he was surprisingly attractive in A Fish Called Wanda. Poor Jamie Lee Curtis gets the rawest deal. She doesn't have a lot of depth to her character, apart from lusting over the elderly Cleese and a frankly crap scene where she 'makes contact' with a gorilla.
The film is at its most successful in the first half when the comedy deals with the zoo and the fierce creatures policy. When Curtis and Kline arrive, the laughs dry up, unless you consider fart gags REALLY funny!. The story runs out of steam, and that is a disappointment. However, this is still a funny film, but I doubt the team could make it through a third film. Now it is time to call it quits. 6.5/10

February 1997

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