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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 Stephen Groenewegen

2 stars

One year, there won’t be a new Woody Allen film. If his coming pictures are as forgettable as The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, chances are no one will even notice.

Allen plays an insurance investigator, CW Briggs, who solves his cases by relying on instinct and putting himself in the mind of the thief. A thief gets into his mind when Briggs is hypnotised by the great Voltan (David Odgen Stiers), during a magic act at a restaurant. Also called up on stage is Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), the sharp-tongued efficiency expert who’s been hired to streamline the agency Briggs works for. Fitzgerald and Briggs share a mutual – and vocal – dislike for each other. Later that night, Voltan rings Briggs at his apartment, intones the hypnotic password and proceeds to manipulate Briggs for his own ends.

It’s always pleasurable watching Allen’s jabbering little-guy shtick. In his comedies, he usually plays a variation of the same character, but the joy comes from his interaction with a strong comic ensemble. Or, failing that, a well matched sparring partner, like Tracey Ullman in last year’s Small Time Crooks.

Unfortunately, Helen Hunt’s not up to the task. Betty Ann is as uptight and prissy as her name. She’s assertive in her work but hopeless with men – she’s dating her dreary boss (Dan Ackroyd), who won’t leave his wife for her. It’s a variation of Hunt’s workaholic executive in What Women Want, and there’s nothing endearing about her performance. Her crankiness isn’t funny; it’s alienating.

When Briggs leaves the room, it’s a running gag that she shouts after him a longwinded, malicious endearment (along the lines of “be careful not to choke on your dinner – you might get a piece of steak lodged in your oesophagus”). But Hunt doesn’t spit the lines out with relish, and she looks more relieved than satisfied that she speaks them at all. I also wish she’d be partnered with someone at least born in the same decade. It’s a drag seeing Hunt continually go home with her father in romantic comedies (What Women Want, As Good as it Gets).

David Odgen Stiers’ tones are velvety and commanding, just right for the sinister magician. And Wallace Shawn’s voice is a welcome addition to any comedy. But the rest of the ensemble seems too much in awe of Allen to make a strong impression. Charlize Theron is over-directed as a Veronica Lake look-alike femme fatale. Her performance lacks spontaneity - it’s as if she’s reading off an autocue.

Briggs and Fitzgerald are supposed to be madly in love when they’re under hypnosis, but they’re just woozy. They put the audience in a trance, and the laboured machinations of the plot don’t bring you around. After Briggs is hypnotised to commit a robbery, you know that Voltan has the same trick in store for Fitzgerald. But you have to wait an eternity for it to happen. It would have made more sense (and a shorter, more surprising picture) if the magician had been hypnotising her at the same time as Briggs, and they ran into each other.

Zhao Fei (who worked with Zhang Yimou and shot Allen’s last two pictures) bathes everything in earthy browns and oranges. It adds to the cosy and complacent feel of The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, completely wrong for a brittle battle-of-the-sexes caper comedy. My mood sank the further the film went, and all I could think was “is this all there is?”.

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originally posted: 03/27/02 13:30:36
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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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