A Fish Called Wanda

  • Review Date: July 27, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Crime caper has a wicked edge; not meant for kids.
  • Review Date: July 27, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 
Academy Award

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There's not really any positive message to be found here, unless it's that love can be found in unexpected places. But that's secondary to the constant double-crossing, lying, stealing, cheating, betraying, and other iffy stuff.

Positive role models

The characters aren't meant to be admirable, and they fully fulfill that intention. Characters commit crimes, cheat, and lie; some are punished, others aren't. Wanda is a strong female character, but she uses her sexuality to get ahead and shows no qualms about double-crossing whoever it takes to get ahead. A character with a stutter is repeatedly mocked. Archie is a barrister, but he's quick to disregard the law when lust proves stronger than ethics. Otto is violent, short-tempered, and crass.

Violence

Mostly cartoon-ish gunplay, but it sometimes gets a bit brutal. Lots of threats. One character tries to engineer situations in which an old woman will be killed; when the schemes go awry, her dogs pay the price. Some hitting/tackling and rough treatment of characters.

Sex

Simulated sex, with frequent allusions to sexual attraction and arousal. Lots of kissing and making out; in one scene, a male character is shown naked from the rear (he's also shown from the front, but there's a strategically placed object blocking his groin). Infidelity.

Language

Language is strong and colorful ("f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," etc.) but not constant.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Limited casual drinking and smoking by adults.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fast-paced heist comedy from some of the folks behind Monty Python's Flying Circus isn't intended to provide positive messages or role models -- just to be funny. Much of its humor is of the envelope-pushing variety: There's sadistic treatment of a stuttering character, dogs and fish are killed, guns are wielded, and characters are roughed up and targeted for murder. There's also a fair bit of strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), some simulated sex, infidelity, kissing, explicit sex talk, and a scene in which a man is shown naked from behind. Characters frequently betray and double-cross each other; they also get away with crimes without being punished. But it's all presented in a comic way, so as long as they're ready for edgy, British-flavored humor, mature teens should be able to handle it.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

After pulling off a daring daylight diamond heist, a team of theives -- including sexy Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), unpredicatable Otto (Kevin Kline), and mild-mannered Ken (Michael Palin) -- starts double-crossing one another in order to claim the loot for themselves. An unsuspecting barrister (John Cleese) gets pulled into the fray, and as lying begets more lying, it all turns into a delightfully loopy farce.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

A FISH CALLED WANDA is a British crime caper that features a comedic tour de force performance by Kline. Cleese's character is a distant cousin to the one he played in beloved Britcom Fawlty Towers, a brow-beaten husband whose efforts to hide an indiscretion result in hilarity. These familiar situations benefit immensely from Cleese's skill; he carries off such scenes with aplomb.

Kline, though, is the real star here -- his elevation of obnoxiousness to a high art won him a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His amalgamation of overconfidence and kinetic energy is so extreme, his shifts in manner from faux-Buddhist to faux-Italian so abrupt, that you can't help but laugh. Without him, the movie would be a bit plain, with the familiar twists and turns of the double-cross jewel-thief escapade. But with him, it's a comedy treat sure to entertain Monty Python fans and British humor enthusiasts alike.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters. Are any of them intended to be role models? If not, are they still sympathetic? Why? How do movies get us to root for "bad" guys?

  • What kind of consequences would these characters face in real life for their actions?

  • Do you find this movie funny or over the top? Why do you think different people find different things funny?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 7, 1988
DVD release date:February 3, 2000
Cast:Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Kevin Kline
Director:Charles Crichton
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Comedy
Run time:108 minutes
MPAA rating:R
Award:Academy Award

This review of A Fish Called Wanda was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byHamlrt December 18, 2013
AGE
2
QUALITY
 

A fish called wanda .... A proper review of the film

This movie review absolutely sucks , I wouldn't show it to little kids but teenagers absolutely ( if they're actually interested in a movie which actually has a story ) , to put you all right Archie leach's character is in no way related to Bail Fawlty ..that's a totally different show ( I'm a Brit and grew up watching Fawlty Towers) ....there's no real sex scenes and probably far less swearing than our little darlings use at school or out of our earshot , yes there's plenty of backstabbing , infidelity and naughty sex talk ..which make for a very funny film ...if you think your little darlings mind is going to be warped by this , you'd be better off showing them Barney the Dinosaur and then they'll really hate you . And they show a man NAKED FROM BEHIND oh my god how awful Get a grip people it's a great movie , with far less nastiness than many movies right now ....and it's got a story too , what more could you want
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Adult Written bytackyspoons April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 
Adult Written bymoviemadness December 29, 2009
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

SO Funny

A Fish Called Wanda is a really, really, really funny movie. It has slapstick, crudeness, crime, betrayal, and dour British people! This sort of film is really best suited to a more mature audience, as there are many, many instances of strong language, a subplot where a man with a stutter is badly mistreated, and several very steamy (albeit ridiculous) sexual situations, inclding harrassment. Until a teen is old enought to appreciate this movie for what it is: an adult's obnoxious, immature, and totally un PC flick, they're not ready for A Fish Called Wanda.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass