Fierce Creatures

Fierce Creatures by Robert Young and Fred Schepisi brings together
again the four principal actors of A Fish Called Wanda, though not in
their characters from that film. This is quite a different story—about an
Antipodean tycoon presumably based on Rupert Murdoch called Rod McCain (Kevin
Kline) who takes over a small zoo in England and the misadventures of a Hong
Kong policeman called Rollo Lee (John Cleese), a former TV executive called
Willa Weston (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the
tycoon’s idiot son, Vince (also played
by Kline) in trying to make the place return 20 per cent per annum on
McCain’s capital, as per corporate
policy. But although the story is completely different, the style is very
similar, with a strong hint of Monty Python, but rather more of
Towers” and Whitehall farce. There is
not much to it, but it is very funny and
that’s more than you can say for most
cinematic comedies these days.

McCain known to his employees as
Almighty.” The first time we see him
he is congratulating himself on his latest deal—and the fact that he
“snatched it from under the nose of
that bastard Murdoch.” He affords a
lot of the typically Cleesian humor. At one point he is pleased to hear that
“Beijing called.
We’ve got the rights to all their
public executions.”

Rollo on his first day as the new head of the zoo gives a talk to its
assembled employees. After a brief summing up of the corporate policy, he is
asked: “Are you going to close the

very glad you asked me that,” he

not!” the employees shout in

“Yes I
am!” he insists.

not!” they say again.

Rollo’s plan to save the zoo is to
do away with all the animals except the fiercest and most deadly ones. Violence
sells tickets, he says. “Mr Sylvester
Stallone did not get where he is today by playing in Jane
Austen.” Rollo pretends to shoot the
gentle animals, but in fact takes them home as pets.

Rod McCain on the phone to Rollo:
the wife and kids?” and
“Wife and kids settling in all
right?” To which Rollo replies that
they are fine and yes they are settling in fine, until finally, unable to make
any other conversation, he asks a third time.
don’t want to seem awkward, but
I’m not married and I
don’t have any
kids,” says Rollo.

Vince’s idea for the zoo is to sell
celebrity sponsorships of all the animals. Bruce Springsteen and Steve Martin
appear as sponsors, though Vince admits he
hasn’t sold them on the idea yet. We
do see a tiger wearing a little caparison emblazoned with
Fierce.” Vince gets an animatronic
panda because he sees no difference between a zoo and a theme park.When told
that the panda comes from China, he says:
“This was handmade in Belgium; I
don’t want some cheap Chinese
panda.” Vince has no use for real
animals at all. When he was a boy, he tells Willa,
“My mother got me this dog. I
didn’t see the point. I guess I just
didn’t have anything I needed

The climax comes with a face-off between Rod and Vince. Vince asks for
“an advance on my
inheritance” and Rod snorts,
He’s having himself frozen so that he
can be brought back to life and leaving Vince nothing.
“You have to leave me
something,” whines Vince.
“You screwed up my whole

“How could
I?” says Rod.
wasn’t even

Vince decides to embezzle a couple of million from the company, but Rod finds
out and calls the police. He arrives just ahead of them to confront Vince, who
has also just had a blow when Willa reveals that she is attracted to Rollo
rather than him.
howls Vince. “How can you touch him?
Look at his suit!” When his father
arrives there is a tussle with a gun and the zoo employee played by Michael
Palin, called Bugsy Malone, accidentally shoots Rod McCain dead. Before the
police arrive the others have to dress Vince as Rod and hide the body of the
real Rod. Then Vince-as-Rod drops the charges and pretends to have had a change
of heart about Vince. He signs a new will leaving the zoo to its employees and
everything else to Vince. Vince almost balks when Rollo is to get Willa, but
comes round immediately when Rollo tells him:
“I get Willa and you get seven billion


Then Vince-Rod pretends to be conscience stricken about the way he has
treated his poor son.
feeling a bit suicidal,” he says, and
goes and locks himself in a shed. There is a shot and the police start banging
on the door. Before they can break it down, the real Rod has been put back into
his own clothes, the gun put into his hand and all the others have jumped out
the window. Good comic timing. Also true of an earlier farcical bit whereon the
various zoo employees, which include Ronnie Corbett and Robert Lindsay as well
as Michael Palin, stage a number of what they pretend are vicious attacks on
themselves by animals which are, in fact, completely docile, so that Rollo will
let them keep them. He realizes what is going on and then behaves like Basil
Fawlty to a woman who really has fallen and injured herself.

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