Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Fred Schepisi
|Produced by||John Cleese
|Written by||John Cleese|
Jamie Lee Curtis
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Editing by||Robert Gibson|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||January 24, 1997 (US)
February 14, 1997 (UK)
|Running time||93 min.|
Fierce Creatures is a 1997 farcical comedy film. While not a direct sequel, Fierce Creatures is something of a spiritual successor to the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda. Both films star John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline and Michael Palin. Fierce Creatures was written by John Cleese, and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (February 2014)|
The film opens with Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis), having turned down a vice-presidency, arriving at Octopus Inc. headquarters in Atlanta to take a high ranking position in one of the companies recently acquired by Octopus head, billionaire New Zealander Rod McCain (Kevin Kline), the most powerful man alive. After meeting his son, vice president of marketing Vince McCain (also played by Kevin Kline), and Rod's assistant Neville, Willa is told by Rod McCain that he has already sold the company where she was to take a position. Now without a job, Willa decides to try and run another of Rod's most recent acquisitions, Marwood Zoo (Marwood is John Cleese's middle name), a fictional zoo that resembles Marwell Wildlife, in an attempt to create a business model that can be used for multiple zoos in the future.
The newly appointed director of the zoo is retired Hong Kong Police Force officer, and former employee at Octopus Television Rollo Lee (John Cleese). In order to meet Octopus's revenue target of 20% from all assets, Lee institutes a "fierce creatures" theme, on the assumption that a zoo that only exhibits dangerous animals and emphasizes violence will attract more visitors, and demands any animals not meeting those requirements must go. All the animal keepers, including the spider-handler Bugsy (Michael Palin), vociferously protest against the policy, and make various attempts to get Rollo to change his mind. One attempt sees them place the five cutest animals at the zoo in front of Rollo (including a Ring-Tailed Lemur named in Rollo's honour, referencing A Fish Called Wanda), and tell him that, as they cannot be placed at other zoos or returned to the wild, they have to be exterminated. They also tell him that, as they are all very fond of the animals, Rollo must shoot them himself. Initially amused by their success, they are horrified when they hear five shots, and find Rollo leaving five recently dug graves. It soon transpires that Rollo has not actually killed the animals, and has merely hidden them in his bedroom, where they cause chaos, interrupting a phone-call from Vince and Willa, leaving the two Americans convinced that Rollo has been having orgies with at least three female members of staff.
After the phone-call, Vince attempts to sleep with Willa, though she rebuffs his advances, and pretends that she would have liked to spend more time together with him. To her horror, Vince reveals that he is coming to run the zoo with Willa, a decision Neville and Rod are wary of given that Vince spent time in prison after stealing from Rod by faking his signature. The two new executives arrive as the conflict between Rollo and the zoo-keepers comes to a head; after taking a gun to assist with subduing a rampaging Ant-eater, Rollo discovers that several other keepers have faked horrific injuries. Rollo then proceeds to fire several warning shots at those responsible, and another zoo-keeper becomes convinced that Rollo has just shot one of them. Rollo then finds a visitor has had a genuine accident, but does not believe it is real, and tastes the blood of the visitor whilst loudly proclaiming that it has been faked. The fiasco sees Rollo demoted to middle management, although Vince threatens to fire him if his apparent activities with female staff do not cease.
The new arrangement in the zoo does not please any of the keepers; Vince covers zoo and animals alike with advertisements after secretly garnering numerous sponsorships, dresses the staff up in ridiculous outfits, and installs an artificial Panda in one the enclosures. To his fury, his continued attempts to seduce Willa fail, while she comes to enjoy working at the zoo, after having a close encounter with a silverback gorilla. She finds herself attracted to Rollo, after being initially fascinated by his apparent ability to attract multiple women. When Rollo attempts to have a discussion about some of Vince's cruder marketing, she suggests they have dinner, although she is forced to delay when she remembers that Rod is coming from Atlanta to discuss the running of the zoo.
Worried that the visit may be part of a plan to close the zoo, Rollo and the zookeepers quickly set out to bug Rod's hotel room to find out. The plan goes horribly wrong when Rollo, Bugsy and one of the female zoo-keepers end up trapped in Rod's room, and are forced to take cover in the wardrobe. The situation gets even worse when Bugsy discovers that his harmless, but nonetheless frightening, pet tarantula has escaped. Whilst Rollo and the other keeper remove their clothes to find the tarantula, Vince and Rod have a worrying conversation: Rod wants to turn over the under-performing zoo to the Japanese to make a golf-course, and, to Vince's fury, is not intending to die, instead being cryogenically frozen when he becomes ill until a cure can be found. When Willa comes to the room, she, Vince and Rod leave, only for Willa to return to collect her bag, and find Rollo partially naked and out of breath in Rod's room, along with two female staff (one also partially naked) and a sheep next door.
The next day, Willa discovers that Vince has stolen from the sponsorship money that he had raised, preventing the zoo hitting the required 20%. Willa warns Vince that if he does retun the money she will tell Rod. When Rollo attempts to work out how easily the theft can be traced to buy them time from Rod and Neville, he and Willa finally kiss, just as Vince arrives to return the money. A confrontation takes place first at the zoo office, and then outside as Willa, Rollo, Bugsy and several others attempt to stop Vince from running off with the money in a bag. When Bugsy refuses to shut up, Vince loses his temper and grabs a Beretta pistol from the management office. Rod arrives just as Vince is being subdued, and he announces that the police are on the way to arrest Vince for stealing. Vince tries and fails to shoot his father, but when Bugsy takes the pistol it accidentally goes off, shooting Rod between the eyes.
In the panic that follows, a plan emerges to fool Neville and the arriving police. The keepers work together to dress Vince up as Rod, since he can imitate his father's accent fairly well. When the police and Neville arrive, Vince (as Rod) tells them that he has re-written Rod's will, specifying that the zoo will become a trust of the caretakers while Vince will inherit everything else, and he wants all of them to be witnesses. After signing the new will, Vince locks himself in a caretaker hut where he feigns Rod's suicide. Although Neville becomes suspicious, he is left dumbstruck when he discovers the dead body of his boss in the hut.
Now free, the zookeepers destroy the evidence of McCain's ownership. Vince becomes the new CEO of Octopus (after firing Neville), while Willa and Rollo begin a new life together while continuing to run the zoo.
- John Cleese as Rollo Lee
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Willa Weston
- Kevin Kline as Rod McCain/Vince McCain
- Michael Palin as Adrian 'Bugsy' Malone
- Robert Lindsay as Sydney Lotterby
- Ronnie Corbett as Reggie Sea Lions
- Carey Lowell as Cub Felines
- Bille Brown as Neville
- Derek Griffiths as Garry Ungulates
- Cynthia Cleese as Pip Small Mammals
- Richard Ridings as Hugh Primates
- Maria Aitken as Di Harding
- Jack Davenport as Student Zoo Keeper
Fred Schepisi was called in to reshoot the last 25 minutes of the film and other sequences throughout. Schepisi claims he tried to get the producers take out the opening 15 minutes, which was done for a test screening, but then some of this footage was put back in, which Schepisi thought killed the movie.
William Goldman worked on the movie as a script doctor.
Concordance with A Fish Called Wanda
The novelization of the film, written by Iain Johnstone, begins with a letter, written by Archie Leach (Cleese's character in Wanda) to Rollo, revealing that they are actually twin brothers; Rollo changed his surname from "Leach" to "Lee" in order to improve his chances of advancement within the Hong Kong police.
The main four actors have roles here that display similar dynamics to their roles in A Fish Called Wanda: John Cleese's character is the morally upright straight-man, Jamie Lee Curtis's character starts out morally grey but ends up romantically linked to John Cleese's character, Kevin Kline is the dense antagonist of the film's plot, and Michael Palin's character provides an active supporting role to the main events. Michael Palin's character in Fierce Creatures, however, is a chatterbox that is difficult to keep quiet, the opposite of his personality in A Fish Called Wanda, where he was a stutterer unable to say anything easily.
Various small gestures throughout the film recall Wanda. In one scene, a keeper tells Rollo that Willa liked him. When Rollo reacts in surprise, Bugsy explains to him that the pheromones he releases into the air attract her. Rollo sniffs his armpit as if to check on how he smelt, a gesture performed by Kevin Kline as Otto in "Wanda". Also in a throwback gesture, in A Fish Called Wanda there was a fish named after Jamie Lee Curtis' character; in Fierce Creatures there is a Ring-tailed Lemur named after Cleese's character. In the final scene John Cleese also "accidentally" calls Jamie Lee Curtis' character "Wanda" instead of Willa.
Supporting actors from A Fish Called Wanda returning for Fierce Creatures include Maria Aitken (wife of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda), his assistant in Fierce Creatures, Cynthia Cleese (daughter of Cleese's character in A Fish Called Wanda and Pip Small Mammals in Fierce Creatures), and Michael Percival (a barrister in A Fish Called Wanda and an antkeeper in Fierce Creatures). Tom Georgeson, who played George Thomason in "Wanda", also made a brief cameo as a zoo visitor watching the sealion display.
John Cleese explained in a David Letterman appearance he didn't want to make a sequel to A Fish Called Wanda because of the expectations and how often sequels are inferior to the original. He points out Aliens and The Godfather, Part II as rare examples of sequels surpassing the originals.
For a time the working title of Fierce Creatures was Death Fish II. In Poland the film was released under the title “Lemur zwany Rollo” which literally means “A Lemur Called Rollo”, directly referencing A Fish Called Wanda.
- "Interview with Fred Schepisi", Signis, 22 December 1998 access 20 November 2012
- Craddock, Jim, ed. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2007 (Detroit: Thompson Gale, 2006), p.310, Fierce Creatures review.
- Fierce Creatures at the Internet Movie Database
- Fierce Creatures at Rotten Tomatoes
- Fierce Creatures at the British Comedy Guide