The film is a comedy about a crime and its aftermath. The crime is a jewel theft planned by George Thomason (played by Tom Georgeson). George's right-hand man is Ken Pile (Michael Palin), an animal lover with a bad stutter. They bring in two Americanss, sexy con artist Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) and dim-witted hitman Otto West (Kevin Kline), who are lovers pretending to be siblings so Wanda can work her charms on George and Ken.
After the robbery, Wanda and Otto betray George to the police. They then find out that George has hidden the loot and won't reveal its location. Wanda decides the best way to get the information is by seducing George's lawyer, Archibald Leach (Cleese; cf Cary Grant).
The movie was a major critical and commercial success when it was released and has remained a popular favorite since. Kline won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work. The principal cast re-united in 1997 for Fierce Creatures, playing different roles and meeting less success.