Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson
Written by: Woody Allen Cast: Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize
Theron, David Ogden Stiers
Woody Allen runs hot and cold. He has well over 30 films to his credit,
some are real gems and a few are duds. When his films are
good, they work because they are a brilliant reflection of
his tortured psyche. He has captured the complexity of relationships
with neurosis and narcissism in films like ANNIE HALL, HUSBANDS
AND WIVES, and the eerily prescient MANHATTAN.
Unfortunately, THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION clearly falls
in the dud category. Woody Allen tells us nothing about
himself and, as a result, his latest film has an empty impersonal
feeling. It's filled with characters who don't connect with
the audience; in fact the characters don't even seem to
connect with one another.
Set in 1940s New York, Allen plays an insurance investigator
(C.W. Briggs) at major firm who solves crimes; Helen Hunt
(Betty Ann FitzGerald) plays the newly hired "efficiency
expert." They hate each other from the start. She thinks
he's incompetent, and he thinks she's a callous number cruncher
trying to get him fired. One night the office staff goes
out for a party at a club where the hypnotist Voltan (Stiers)
is performing. Betty Ann and C.W. are pulled from the audience,
and after being put under, they fall into stuporous dazes
and profess their love for each other. When they snap out
of it, they're back at each other's throats.
Voltan, it turns out, is a jewel thief. The following evening,
he telephones C.W. and utters the "curse of the jade
scorpion." C.W. falls into a trance, and under his
spell, begins to heist jewels from mansions. The ensuing
romantic mistiming is supposed to be what hinges the film
together. One minute Betty Ann and C.W. despise each other,
but as soon as the hypnotist phones, they utterly confuse
each other with confessions of love.
It sounds like a great idea for a screwball romantic comedy,
but it fails miserably for several reasons. There isn't
a spark of chemistry between the main characters. Their
bickering exchanges are so embarrassingly dumb, I've heard
10-year-olds taunt each other on a playground with better
one-liners. Hunt is also completely miscast as an independent-minded
career woman. Her performance is stiff and restrained. Throughout
the entire film she looks anachronistic even in a 1940s
period piece. When she takes a drag off a cigarette and
crushes it in an ashtray, it has to be the worst use of
smoking as a prop I've ever seen.
Woody Allen, of course, plays the same character he has
throughout all his films, be they hits or misses. But without
a clever screenplay, his stammering, nebbish schtick is
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
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