Film Reviews

THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION

By • Aug 24th, 2001 •

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I’ll be blunt: I don’t enjoy seeing Woody Allen as a babe magnet. Does anyone? And now that Allen is an old man, someone has got to counsel him regarding this cinematic hubris that he generously indulges himself in, film after film. Allen has been internationally famous for so long he’s forgotten his appeal in real life is based on his wealthy celebrity status. In his films, the characters he writes for himself cannot get the young, hot girls. In THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, Charlize Theron hungers for Woody’s character, CW Briggs, a poor, broken slob of an insurance investigator. An office secretary, played by Elizabeth Berkley, looks at him adoringly, and, get this, he does win the girl in the end.

The film is set in 1940 New York, apparently an era when men like CW Briggs believed in their sexual allure – regardless that they lived and slept in one shirt and suit. CW Briggs is his agency’s biggest star – he just found a stolen Picasso! However, neither his boss, big Dan Aykroyd, nor the new firm’s efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald, (Helen Hunt) seem too impressed.

CW and Betty Ann hate each other and here is where the comedy works. Allen and Hunt mercilessly insult each other. She uses every known word to describe CW as either an insect or worm. She does not let him forget he’s short and old. CW gives as good as he gets. Hunt is a terrific foil for Allen – she can take the insults without us feeling sorry for her. Hunt knows how to show utter contempt with a smirk and relate to the audience that CW’s barbs are totally meaningless to her.

The story – well, you’ve seen the trailer – involves CW and Betty Ann getting hypnotized by a stage magician. CW then commits several jewel robberies while under the power of the Jade Scorpion. Of course, eventually it’s Betty Ann’s turn to play thief. Did I laugh at Woody’s lines? Some of them, yes. Though, since this comedy takes place in 1940, the cleverness is more traditional than witty and herein lies the problem. It’s a cute, harmless little movie with only Theron taking her small role as a socialite nympho and running off with it. The intelligence of Allen’s past wit is lost on this inconsequential jewel caper comedy. Perhaps to offset the star’s unattractiveness, a portly Aykroyd has kissing scenes with Hunt. There are no twists, no surprises, and no really big laughs to elevate this mediocre movie.

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