Fierce Creatures (1997) – Review

2 Stars

Every fifteen minutes or so a funny sequence or clever line will jolt some energy into Fierce Creatures, but the inconsistencies serve as a reminder of how superior A Fish Called Wanda is. It takes nearly thirty minutes to get going, before a couple of genuinely funny scenes give hope that the path has been found. It’s then followed by the rest of the movie that is awkward, mis-timed, and warmed over from spare parts of the casts’ collective better works.

Rodd McCain (Kevin Kline) has acquired a zoo in England and sent a new director of operations (John Cleese) to get profits up twenty percent. This leads to Cleese’s decision to do away with docile animals because they are too boring. He thinks that by featuring only nature’s fierce creatures people will be more enticed due to the danger level involved. It’s an amusing idea that leads nowhere.

Kevin Kline, whom I’ve never considered a comedic actor, but has won an Oscar for a role in a comedy, is ok as a Rupert Murdoch type. Under heavy makeup, Kline is allowed to freely steal scenes, but the movie doesn’t let the character loose. The whole movie is that way. It feels restrained, homogenized, for no apparent reason. Jamie Lee Curtis wanders through the movie without given a definitive reason for her character’s existence other than to fit her in the story because, hey, she was in Wanda too. The band is all back together but the tunes don’t sound the same.

The ever reliable John Cleese hits the right tone with his exasperated manner and intellectual superiority. The scene mid-way where a woman breaks her leg and a skeptical Cleese tastes the blood of authenticity is gold. Fierce Creatures needs more of that outlandishness to work. With all the sharp minds involved in the project it’s surprising that the result feels rushed, pared down, and incomplete.

Director: Robert Young, Fred Schepisi
Stars: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline

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