Fierce creatures

Sorry, Basil, it just doesn't make the mark. Despite an impressive cast, something obviously went terribly wrong while creating this chaotic hodge-podge.

An Australian media mogul named Rod McKain (Kevin Kline), who demands a 20% return on all his investments, buys an English zoo. Willa Wain (Jamie Lee Curtis), a woman on the move with a dynamic future in her sights, shows up for her new job with McKain's conglomerate Octopus Inc. only to discover that the radio network for which she was contracted has been sold off that morning. Willa, clever girl that she is, still sees a chance to climb the ladder toward greater opportunities through turning the recently purchased zoo into a theme park by wheedling her way into the proper position and calling upon the assistance of McKain's playboy son Vince (also played by Kevin Kline). In the meantime, father McKain has already hired a Hong Kong TV employee named Rollo Lee (John Cleese) to manage the zoo.

A newly enforced policy demands that the zoo population be restricted to "fierce creatures" so that cash receipts can be immediately increased as much as possible. Realizing that such a change will necessarily elimination all "other" animals on the premises, the keepers revolt and continue the chain of events rolling in this revolting film.

Why, you may wonder, doesn't this concept work when so much of the same team was involved with a previous successful project known as A Fish Called Wanda. Perhaps co-writers John Cleese and Iain Johnstone weren't quite able to hit upon a new formula that worked as well as the previous one. Perhaps they should have called in a third writer as consultant when viewers of initial screenings were dissatisfied with the conclusion. Perhaps they should have done more extensive re-shooting on some of the scenes than they actually did. (Remember, folks, Wanda re-shot the end twice and that finally worked.)

Robert Young, the original director on the project, was unavailable to re-shoot the ending and so Fred Schepisi, who is known for turning out such highly polished products as Six Degrees of Separation and A Cry in the Dark, was called in. As far as reputations go, he probably would have been better off staying home and throwing a shrimp on the barby than getting involved with this done-dead crock. John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin and Jamie Lee Curtis would also have been well advised to spend their time making a funnier film. Fierce Creatures has neither bark nor bite. Give me Jumanji anytime.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett