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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.33%
Worth A Look36%
Average: 28%
Pretty Bad: 12%
Total Crap: 18.67%

9 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Curse of the Three-Picture Deal"
1 stars

Yuck. Here's a film that simply reeks of contractual obligations and a screenplay yanked out of someone's attic. I was stunned when I heard so many people bashing this one. That was before I sat through it.

Right off the bat: I AM a big fan of Woody Allen's body of work. Like many movie freaks, I discovered the joys of Woody Allen several years ago, and I proudly list Annie Hall, Broadway Danny Rose, Love and Death and The Purple Rose of Cairo among my favorite movies. Heck, just last year Woody Allen graced audiences with his best comic work in many moons, the witty ensemble piece Small Time Crooks.

Despite my admiration for the jittery and insecure filmmaker, there's almost nothing to enjoy in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. The plot is strictly sitcom grade, the rapid-fire one-liners make resounding thuds every thirty seconds and nearly every single performance is off. I realize that no filmmaker is perfect, but by this point Woody Allen surely should have evolved past such a shockingly shoddy and belabored project.

Much as he's done for the past 20 years, Woody Allen plays a neurotic schlub. This time around he's CW Briggs, a reputable (yet aging) insurance investigator in 1940's Manhattan. Irritated to the point of mania by "efficiency expert" Betty Ann Fitzgerald, CW repeatedly whines about his lot in life and basically annoys everyone he sees. (Yes, that definitely includes the viewer.) While attending a swank birthday party, CW and Betty Ann are hypnotized into believing that they adore one another. That the hypnotist utilizes "secret words" is quite important to the simplistic plot, so pay attention.

When the word "Constantinopole" is uttered, CW immediately falls into a hypnotic trance and will do the bidding of whoever's close by. Ditto Betty Ann, only her code word is "Madagascar". Imagine the hilarity when CW is hypnotized into pilfering some ultra-expensive jewelry. Multiply that lack of hilarity by two dozen when CW goes about investigating...the very theft that he himself has committed! Oh man. Where's Lucille Ball when you need her?

There are numerous extraneous plot threads, each one dutifully included so that the film doesn't clock in at 57 minutes. Betty Ann is having a yawn-inducuing tryst with the boss. CW repeatedly makes sexual innuendoes to every young woman he sees, despite the fact that he's older than the entire cast by about 19 years and has a face seemingly made of pudding. A pair of clueless detectives are hired when CW can't locate the diamonds, so Woody gets a chance to use his patented "Boy, are you guys dumb" gags.

Helen Hunt is not only totally miscast as Betty Ann, but she and Allen spark about as much chemistry as would a rock and a thumbtack. Dan Aykroyd proves to be somewhat entertaining in his full-on "blustery and befuddled" shtick, Elizabeth Berkley (as a secretary) manages to be truly wretched despite having only 6 lines and Charlize Theron tries desperately to achieve "noir sexy" and comes up with "pale monotone". The only actor who seems to be having any fun at all is Wallace Shawn, so logically he only appears for about 4 minutes.

If The Curse of the Jade Scorpion had been one of Allen's first movies, it would probably be remembered as a mildly interesting curiosity. But given that Woody Allen has directed some 35 films (several of them simply fantastic films), it's sadly stunning that he would deliver such a stilted and lifeless farce. Every scene is littered with the trademark Woody Allen barbs, mannerisms, mumbling, angst and put-downs. Every single one, without exception, smells like something he'd unquestionably have excised had this movie been made 15 years ago.

If you had told me that I'd be giving a Woody Allen comedy a 1-star rating, I'd have thought you insane. But after sitting through this nearly unendurable movie, it's Woody Allen I'm beginning to worry about.

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originally posted: 01/02/02 18:04:12
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User Comments

4/26/05 Indrid Cold Featherweight, marginally funny drama. Doesn't really do anything particularly bad or good 3 stars
4/07/04 john one of Allens less sucessful recent ventures - not that funny 2 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Dispite what some people might tell you... it's actually pretty good. 4 stars
5/19/03 George Jung One of the best movies of 2001. 5 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Well, I thought it was funny. 4 stars
4/19/03 Ubu the Ripper Not one of Woody's best, but not bad. 4 stars
1/13/03 Jack Sommersby Tired and unremarkable. Woody needs some fresh ideas, people. 2 stars
6/02/02 Chris The bouncing score keeps the film fun, fresh, and funny. 4 stars
3/28/02 HHfan Helen Hunt is THE BEST ACTRESS ever!!! 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver I thought it was quite fun. Have some popcorn. Laugh. 4 stars
2/08/02 Regurja Tate Want good anachronistic acting? Go to Helen Hunt for it! 3 stars
9/18/01 Bud A no brainer campy mystery, fun cast, great period decor, Woody is Woody. 3 stars
9/17/01 Bri good film for what it was. Bang the girl next time thou! 4 stars
9/14/01 Albie Great Allen dialoge, Good banter and great one-liners. Enjoyed 4 stars
9/10/01 Nessus Some good barbs. Fun to watch, Dan Aykroyd felt weird though. 4 stars
9/09/01 Heather Essential for Woody fans, full of sharp insults and funny wisecracks 5 stars
8/27/01 spaceworm "Jaded" would be more like it. 2 stars
8/24/01 steve aubin when i watch this movie, i urinate like a hippo 5 stars
8/22/01 The Boy In The Designer Bubble Great Goddess, when did Woody Allen die? Why hasn't anyone told him he's a living corpse? 1 stars
8/20/01 nat good movie e.berkley good casting did agreat job 4 stars
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  24-Aug-2001 (PG-13)


  28-Mar-2002 (M)

Directed by
  Woody Allen

Written by
  Woody Allen

  Woody Allen
  Dan Aykroyd
  Elizabeth Berkley
  Helen Hunt
  Charlize Theron
  Wallace Shawn

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