`Creatures': Feeble, Uninteresting

Article excerpt

"Fierce Creatures" toys with a lemur called Rollo and a tarantula called Terry. No stroke of whimsy is adequate to a Mission Impossible: This desperate and muddled farce, a misbegotten reunion project for the principal cast members of "A Fish Called Wanda," defies an appropriate tone or confident playing rhythm.

Like the weekend's other derelict comedy, "I'm Not Rappaport," the enfeebled "Creatures" has lingered in inventory for several months. The directing credit evidently reflects a considerable amount of repair work on the part of the more familiar and reputable Fred Schepisi. But since the movie as a whole remains a shambles, one deduces that retakes alone were unable to redeem the show.

The company seems to be flailing around in search of the perversely funny expertise that sustained "Wanda" almost 10 years ago. Kevin Kline, who won his Academy Award playing a farcical psychopath in the original collaboration, is entrusted with a dual role - and works twice as hard as anyone else to keep the scenes on life support. As a tyrannical, cutthroat mogul called Rod McCain, a New Zealander whose business zeal has created an empire called Octopus Inc., Mr. Kline specializes in an eccentric accent. As Rod's vain, moronic son Vince, he emphasizes funny faces and strenuous antics, often while trying to throw himself at Jamie Lee Curtis, cast as a new executive named Willa Weston, who thinks it may be keen to manage a zoo.

An exchange of properties has brought a London zoo, Marwood, into the McCain portfolio. A retired colonial gendarme, John Cleese as a put-upon fellow named Rollo, is assigned to increase the profit margin to the 20 percent demanded of all Octopus enterprises. Willa, hired to run a TV station that Rod has blithely sold, is allowed to crowd the management picture at Marwood, with Vince tagging along to initiate an obtrusive new promotional campaign.

The solution to a lagging box office at Marwood: emphasize fierce creatures and get rid of the tame, pacific fauna. Simultaneously, advertising venues are strung all over the grounds, producing a gaudy array of brand names emblazoned on colorful posters and banners. …