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By Jonas Leijonhufvud
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 30, 1997

'Fierce Creatures' is tame comedy


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Courtesy of Universal Pictures Jamie Lee Curtis as Willa Weston and Kevin Kline as Vince McCain in "Fierce Creatures"

Nine years after the blockbuster "A Fish Called Wanda," John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin are at it again. "Fierce Creatures" is a comedy about the conflicts that result when a small English zoo is swallowed by a milti-national corporation.

Unfortunately the film bears only the most superficial resemblance to its brilliant predecessor. By abandoning the dark humor that has defined John Cleese's career, the movie succeeds only in being dopey and sentimental. I laughed when Kevin Kline plucked live snacks out of an aquarium in "A Fish Called Wanda," I roared when an obese restaurant guest threw up on the cleaning lady in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life," but seeing my comedic heroes disgrace themselves in this latest film really made me ill.

The film's plot revolves around Rollo (John Cleese), a newly appointed zoo director who's been assigned by the large corporation to raise profits by eliminating all animals that aren't "fierce." As he examines the inventory, the zoo-keepers, lead by the long-winded Ugsy (Michael Palin), invent ridiculous tricks to make the furry little creatures seem lethal (Picture a series of one gag scenes -"Police Academy" style.). Supervising this animal downsizing of sorts via cell-phone from America, are busty business woman Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Vince McCain (Kevin Kline), the flashy yet useless son New Zealand billionaire Rod McCain (also played by Kline), the man behind the corporation.

After 15 minutes of this mediocre comedy, we reach a defining moment in the film. In order to protest the new policy, the zoo-keepers bring all the non-fierce animals into Rollo's office, place them on his desk, and promptly ask him to shoot them. The large googely eyes of lemurs and ostriches stare at us from inside cages as the zoo-keepers utter earnest good-byes as they slowly file out the office. Outside, they snicker at the Rollo's pained expression, knowing full and well that he won't be able to kill the cute little animals. And that's when we hear the gunshots.

This provides the first real laugh of the movie. It continues as the gunshots give way to the sound of a banging shovel and we cut to Cleese flattening the last in a row of little animal graves. Finally some real comedy!

But, as it turns out, we have been deceived. Rollo didn't really kill the animals -he saved them by moving them all into his flat.

From then on the movie is straight downhill. Willa and Vince arrive at the zoo to corrupt and commercialize it. A one-dimensional comedy of errors develops as they, set off by the fact that he is hiding animals in his home, suspect Rollo of engaging in sexual orgies. Time and time again he is caught in compromising positions, with the two token sexy zoo-keepers.

Unlike the previous film, the characters in "Fierce Creatures" have no depth or complexity. Michael Palin, who played a stuttering, animal loving misanthrope, who keeps on killing animals by mistake, in a "Fish Called Wanda" has one characteristic in this film: he spouts out facts continuously. And it's not even funny. Kevin Klien is plain dopey as Vince and ridiculous as New Zealand billionaire Rod McCain -a character who's main characteristics are burping and farting (what a gas, aey?). Jamie Lee Curtis is pure tits and ass in this film. She's given nothing of her own, and she has to endure about two-dozen Freudian slips, uttered by John Cleese, about various parts of her anatomy. It's dry British farce in the worst way.

What makes the film even more ugly is its multitude of sponsorship plugs. With excuse of the zoo becoming commercialized we are blinded with brand names of all kinds, often framed in the center of the scenes.

But selling out is the essence of this film. It is so watered down that it drowns itself completely. I went and saw it with a friend who doesn't know squat about the knights who say "neep". She hated it too.