Fierce Creatures (1997)

fierce creatures

“Surely she’s been savaged by a chipmunk, or gored by a gopher, or disemboweled by a chicken!”

The Scoop: 1997 PG-13, directed by Fred Schepisi and Robert Young, and starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin

Tagline: Don’t pet them.

Summary Capsule: British zoo fights for right to party!… and to stay open.

Justin’s rating: Many say I have a remarkable resemblance to lemurs. Plural.

Justin’s review: This is an interesting concept of a film. Reuniting the hit cast to the hit film about a guy making a hit on some dogs, Fierce Creatures is the not-quite-a-sequel-but-almost of the year. Monty Python actors John Cleese (who plays Rollo Lee) and Michael Palin (Bugsy) bring to the picture that lovable British hilarity, while Kevin Kline (Vince McCain) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Willa) showcase the American spirit. As in their first film, A Fish Called Wanda, these stars show remarkable integrated fluidity in their roles, positively giddy with spirit. [Turning the Justin Translator on…] Which means they mesh well together and guarantee you a funny comedy.

Instead of a crime caper, Fierce Creatures revolves around the plight of an English zoo facing extinction. Ooh, I am alive with witticisms today! And it’s not even that original! Acquired by an vicious corporate boss, the zoo is challenged to raise profits or be sold. A marketing specialist, Rollo Lee, is sent in to turn things around. His idea? Have nothing but “fierce creatures” in every cage, transforming it into a Zoo of Death. Naturally, this shakes up the zookeepers (including Bugsy), who watch over the most cuddly animals in the world. To further complicate matters, Willa is sent in as the zoo’s manager, and Vince (the boss’s son) tags along to win her affections.

Animals make great comedy when teamed up with humans they can take advantage of. Look at the Crocodile Hunter! Who doesn’t laugh when a snake lunges at his privates, only to be snatched away at the last moment with a pithy comment? Speaking of snakes, my oh-so-delicate friend Emily is now the proud owner of a boa constrictor, which must weigh at least a third as much as her. She gives this snake baths, talks to it (despite a lack of snaky ears), and even drops it off at the SNAKE DAY CARE CENTER when she goes to work! Always something I look for in my friends, ownership of an animal that might possibly mistake delicate parts of the male body with a dinner of fresh mouse.

Anyway, the zoo descends into outright lunacy as everyone pulls in every which way to keep it from closing. On top of the fierce creatures policy comes celebrity endorsement, animatronic animals, and some of the best product placement you’ve ever seen. The key player to keep your eye on is Rollo, who is not quite in charge, not quite powerless, but always befuddled in that blustering British way. He’s got an excellent running joke with being sexually insatiable, even though he’s the most single bachelor you’ve ever met.

While Vince and Willa do an okay job as the American antagonists (with Kevin Kline doing double duty as both Vince and Rod), it’s really the wacky British spirit (and slapstick comedy) that keeps this film alive. The zookeepers wage their own private war against management, and when they get to faking their own wounds and gunning down anteaters, cinema has reached its finest. Just like their animals, the keepers are utterly lovable.

I, Bill Clinton, heartily endorse this film, Fierce Creatures! Panasonic and Microsoft will send you a $10 rebate for renting this movie. But beware! Pregnant men or small children should not see Fierce Creatures due to the violent, bloody, and all-out horrifying nature of this movie. (Justin would also like to comment that this would make an excellent date movie, seeing as how both sexes would be struck with the giggles indefinitely.)


  • Filmed in 1995, then largely rewritten and refilmed in 1996 with a new director (Schepisi); note how Lowell disappears from whole sections of the picture.
  • Terry, Bugsy’s pet spider, was named for Terry Jones, who, with Michael Palin (who plays Bugsy), wrote a sketch called “The Fierce Creatures Policy,” on which the movie is based.
  • The wishing well charges 1 pound for a wish or 5 pounds for an extra-lucky wish.
  • Rollo has an ad on the back of his suit jacket
  • The animatronic panda eventually has an “out of order” sign hung on it
  • Cynthia Cleese, one of the zookeepers, is John’s daughter
  • This was made by the same team as A Fish Called Wanda. The two films have more than 20 cast and crew members in common, including all the major performers.
  • In A Fish Called Wanda, Jamie Lee Curtis’ character had the same name as the title fish. In this film, John Cleese’s character Rollo has the same name as a lemur.
  • In this film’s final scene, Rollo mixes up the name of Curtis’ character, calling Willa Wanda once — a reference to the earlier film, and perhaps specifically to a scene in that film where Cleese’s character mixed up Wanda’s name with his wife Wendy’s and called Wendy Wanda.
  • During the credits it reads, “No animals were injured during the making of this movie, only humans.”
Another Tuesday for John Cleese
Another Tuesday for John Cleese

Groovy Quotes

Willa: And you are vice-present Martin.
Vince: YES. But mostly I just wait for my father to die.

Willa: Rod McCain.
Vince: Around here, he’s called “Rod Almighty”.

Di: Have you any background in animals?
Rollo: Well, I’ve eaten a lot, yeah?

Bugsy: ‘Ow much does he want in the end?
Rollo: What?
Bugsy: ‘Ow much bigger does he want to get?
Rollo: Well, there aren’t any limits. He wants growth!
Bugsy: Well, presumably he’s aware of Dr. E.F. Shumacker’s concept of limited resources or as John Paul Sartre puts it…
Rollo: Any sensible questions?

Woman: Are they going to close the zoo?
Rollo: Well, I’m very glad you asked that.
Man: No you’re not.
Rollo: Yes I am.
Crowd: No you’re not.

Rollo: Mr. Sylvester Stallone did not get where he is today by playing in Jane Austin.

Man: Sea lions and penguins… people don’t think of them as killers, but they can be killers! Why have you all gone quiet?

Rollo: This new plaque of yours, Lotterby, says that they’re known as “the piranhas of the desert.” Is that right?
Lotabee: They can strip a human carcass in three minutes!
Rollo: My encyclopedia says they’re easily tamed and often kept as pets.
Lotabee: You’ve not been attacked by one, sir!
Rollo: Nobody’s been attacked by one, Lotterby. Or rather if they have, they’ve never noticed.

Woman: You will make it quick, won’t you sir?
Rollo: What do you mean, I’m not allowed to torture them for fun, first?

Vince: How does he get three girls? Where does the third one go?

Rollo: [about the anteater] You do not need three guns to recapture this creature when a sharp stick would have sufficed!

Rollo: It’s an anteater, not a maneater!
Lotterby: What would you be saying if it ran over there, jumped into that pram? What would you be saying to the child’s mother now?
Rollo: I’d say, “Madam, you are the victim of an 8 billion to one chance: a leaping anteater! An evolutionary mutant previously unknown to science!”

Man: [looking at the buxom assistant] Lovely creatures, sea lions.
Other Man: Wonderful plumage.

Rollo: Something wrong with the sights on this, I keep hitting coffee mugs!

Rollo: No, no, surely she’s been savaged by a chipmunk, or gored by a gopher, or disembowelled by a chicken!

Willa: You’ve seen the paper?
Vince: Yeah, the “Vampire Gunman Runs Amuck” story?

Vince: [to the gorillas] What do you do for an encore, fall asleep?

Vince: This is the kind of conversation two people have when one of them is female.

Vince: Is there a history of insanity in your family? Or is smashing up trollies the new American craze?

Bugsy: I only assume he’s going to turn the entire zoo into a supermarket that sells videos of animals in other zoos!

Vince: Over here, this used to be the lion house, but seeing as how it’s no longer suitable for animals, we’re using it for middle management.

Vince: You’re supposed to be working, not prancing around your cell like a flamingo with a boner!

Vince: You screwed up my whole childhood!
Rod: Why? I was never there!

Vince: This is it, gentlemen, the coup de zoo.

Vince: How much does Mr. Gorilla take home at the end of the week? Not a lot! A couple of bananas!

Willa: I love this zoo.
Rollo: I love zoo too.

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 that 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 there way here?!… Another example of the thoroughness of your plan. [Bugsy stutters.] 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!!! [Bugsy stutters some more.] Sorry, I didn’t… quite catch it… What? What was that?… Pop him in the blender?

Rollo: But I have to warn you, Wanda…
Willa: Willa! Willa!
Rollo: Willa.

Vince: I don’t like you. You’re weird and unattractive.

[The staff are now all reluctantly wearing animal costumes.]
Vince: And I want to thank you all, personally, for the incredible enthusiasm that you’ve shown vis-à-vis our latest new innovative initiative. You look fantastic! You’re no longer a bunch of smelly old animal keepers. No, as of today, you are official Theme Zoo Visitation Enhancement Facilitators!

Vince: Willa, can I ask you a question?
Willa: Sure.
Vince: Those breasts real?
Willa: Yes.
Vince: [Closes door, but we hear him through it.] Yippee!

Vince: Oh, were you asleep?
Rollo: Uh, yes, I frequently am at 2 A.M., I’m afraid. Uh, filthy habit I picked up in the Far East.
Vince: Oh well, gee, look, if this communiqué is in any way, uh, sleep-interruptive, I’ll, uh, re-telephone you later.

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One comment

  1. […] I love lovebirds especially. But meerkats are great, too: they’re cut, cuddly, and deadly. The piranhas of the desert, they are! And they’re also the namesake of a really neat South African radio astronomy […]

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