Fierce Creatures

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Fierce Creatures (1997) is a Spiritual Successor to A Fish Called Wanda, starring the four main players from the earlier film: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin. The movie was written by John Cleese and directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young.

The story concerns a British zoo recently acquired by New Zealand businessman Rod McCain (Kline) and put under the management of Rollo Lee (Cleese). In order to boost profits, Lee decides to institute a "fierce creatures" policy that means that only potentially deadly animals will be featured in the zoo.


Tropes used in Fierce Creatures include:
  • Accidental Pervert / Not What It Looks Like: Rollo Lee is constantly being being caught by Willa in embarrassing and seemingly lurid situations (such as being caught in a shower with half-dressed and nubile young lady zookeepers, a sheep wandering out of his bedroom, etc). They all have perfectly innocent but very convoluted and unlikely explanations.

Zoo Patron: I can see why they keep him in a cage.

  • Acting for Two: Kline as both the McCains.
  • Actor Allusion: Rollo briefly calls Willa "Wanda" by accident. Wanda was Curtis' previous role in A Fish Called Wanda.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelisation reveals that Rollo is the brother of Archie from A Fish Called Wanda.
  • Bait and Switch Tyrant: Rollo only pretends to shoot the cute, fuzzy animals. He is instead keeping them hidden in his room.
  • Better Than It Sounds/Film
  • Chekhov's Skill: Vince's ability to mimic his father's Kiwi accent.
  • Curse Cut Short
  • Double Entendre: Willa bends forward displaying an immense amount of cleavage to the camera and starts asking how you can resist the urge to reach out and fondle them. She is of course bending forward to look at some very cute animals in the zoo.
  • Epic Fail: Bugsy accidentally killing Rod. Not so much the fact he shot him, but the fact that by shooting him, he doomed his comrades to very swift life imprisonment. Not to mention, Rod has decided to keep the zoo open, mere seconds beforehand.
    • Rollo points out how thoroughly they're all screwed in a tirade dripping with sarcasm.

Rollo: Oh, great. Terrific. He decides to keep the zoo open, so you kill him. Brilliant. Well done. Thank you so much, especially for shooting him right between the eyes so that it doesn't look like an accident. Because the people at Octopus will know he was coming here to close us down. So there's our motive for murdering him. Stunning. Well, Mr. Brain of Britain, what are we going to tell the police who are, of course, already on their way here? Another example of the thoroughness of your plan. Go on. I'm all ears. What do you suggest we do with the dead body of the incredibly famous man who you have just ASSASSINATED?

  • Executive Meddling: The studio disliked the cut of the film that Robert Young turned in, which led to Fred Schepisi being hired to reshoot anything between just the ending or nearly half of the film, depending on who you believe.
    • It could be half, since Fierce Creatures seems a bit more watered down with the language when comparing it to A Fish Called Wanda.
  • Fan Service: One of Vince's new marketing schemes is to have the zookeepers dress in animal costumes like at Disneyland. One female keeper is dressed rather seductively as a leopard.
    • Jamie Lee Curtis. As Roger Ebert puts it, she dresses as businesswomen would dress if careerwear was designed by Maidenform.
  • Freudian Slippery Slope: John Cleese has a brilliant monologue about lemurs wherein he is unable to go five words without mentioning Jamie Lee Curtis' breasts.
    • He even describes it as a "Freudian slit...-slut!...-slot!"
  • Gasshole: Rod McCain. He farts as he dies.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Vince.

Vince: What about a small advance on my inheritance?
Rod: What inheritance?
Vince: I'm your son, you have to leave me something.
Rod: Why?
Vince: 'Cause you screwed up my whole childhood!
Rod: How could I have? Wasn't even there.

  • Hilarity in Zoos: The movie takes place mainly at the zoo
  • Hypocritical Humor: After overhearing Rollo on the phone and thinking he's in the midst of a four-way with three hot young zookeepers, Vince says it's disgusting how people abuse positions of power for personal gratification. As he's saying this, he's stripping down to his underwear in order to seduce Willa.
  • I Control My Minions Through...

Di: You mean Octopus is ruled by fear?
Rollo: No, no. Terror.

  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face
  • Inadequate Inheritor: See Hilariously Abusive Childhood above--Rod is going to cut Vince out of the will.
  • Informed Attribute: Rollo is allegedly a Chinese man who speaks English well. Not like you could tell otherwise.
    • Or Rod just assumes that he was Chinese given that he was a member of the Hong Kong police and his last name was "Lee" (note: Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997)
  • Jerkass: Rod McCain
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Rollo puts on the appearance of a tough, no-nonsense type with a sharp tongue, but it's mostly bluster and he's pretty nice underneath it all.
  • Metaphorgotten: Rod McCain claims "Sheep are exactly like people, you know. Give 'em a couple of meals a day, they just stand there quietly... till you eat 'em."
  • Motor Mouth: Oh God, Bugsy. Even Vince threatening to shoot him if he doesn't shut up doesn't work. It makes his eventual stunned silence all the more effective.

Vince: You would rather talk than live, wouldn't you?!

  • No Animals Were Harmed: "No animals were harmed in the making of this film, only humans."
  • Not with the Safety On, You Won't: Played with, first successfully to disarm a gunman then, while explaining that the safety was on all the time it ventures into I Just Shot Marvin in the Face.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: When the father is shot in the head, a plan is quickly concocted to have his son play the father and then pretend to commit suicide. This works well since both characters are played by Kevin Kline.
  • Pandaing to the Audience: A robot panda is imported to the zoo and presented as the real thing
  • Production Posse: A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures both share the same four actors: John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Palin.
    • The same woman who played Wendy (Archie's wife) in Wanda also returns, this time playing Rollo's secretary. And John Cleese's daughter Cynthia, who played his daughter in Wanda, here plays the blonde zookeeper.
  • Right in Front of Me: Rollo Lee mouthing off to the people he doesn't know are his bosses:

Rollo: God, you're always so pushy, you Americans! I mean, who the hell do you think you are?!
Willa: Willa Weston.
Vince: Vince McCain.
Rollo: Oh...Well...

Rollo: I think the whole Octopus philosophy is poison. The only aim of any and every McCain business is to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize and halve the quality, to make enough money to acquire another business to downsize, etc., etc., without ever running a single one of them really well. And if anyone ever raises the question of quality, they're immediately attacked as an elitist, because at Octopus it's considered morally offensive to talk about anything but money. All so that Mr. Rod McCain can feel a little more powerful every day. That's why, instead of running this wonderful zoo properly, we've got to spoil it in order to finance his next mindless acquisition.
(notices Willa, McCain's employee, standing behind him)
Rollo: (without flinching) On the other hand, he is a remarkable man--.