THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, written and directed by Woody Allen, suffers
from the Woody Allen curse. It's a malaise of mediocrity that has struck
almost all of his recent films. They're all merely okay -- cute at times
with some nice laughs but as forgettable as sitcom reruns.
The setup this time features Woody as crackerjack detective CW Briggs during
Woody's favorite period, the 1940s. This allows him to get a lot of his
favorite music, jazz, into the score. The weird and wacky theme music for
the film manages to be the movie's most endearing and original
Briggs has running verbal battles with the office's new efficiency expert,
Betty Ann "Fitz" Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). Although they appear to despise
each other, they subconsciously are head-over-heels in love. Their stream
of insults and CW's sexual innuendos form the best part of the dialog. When
she finds a deck of playing cards decorated with naked women in his
apartment, it confirms her assessment of him as a slimeball. As an
explanation, he tells her, "I used to date the six of spades." Many of the
jokes, however, are retreads such as the one about the blind beggar. Guess
what? He can see.
The plot concerns a hypnotist, Voltan (David Ogden Stiers), who puts both CW
and Fitz under a spell. This allows Voltan later to turn them into zombies.
With a glaze over their eyes and minds, they become Voltan's
remote-controlled jewel thieves.
A subtheme concerns the affair that Fitz is having with their boss, Chris
Magruder (Dan Aykroyd). This dissolves into the old routine of whether the
married man will leave his wife or not. Elizabeth Berkley (SHOWGIRLS) and
Charlize Theron are given a couple of throwaway parts -- Berkley as a woman
who looks easy, but isn't, and Theron as a blonde bombshell, who is happiest
As the story evolves, it turns more and more into a love story. If you like
to see old, frail, balding guys taking home the smart, good-looking women,
you'll like where the story goes. I must admit that I still find Woody
charming, but I suspect it is more in reverence for his great films like
ANNIE HALL and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS than for his current pictures. The
best that can be said of his latest film is that it's kind of entertaining.
THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION runs too long at 1:44. It is rated PG-13 for
some sexual content and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, gave it ** 1/2. He said that it was funny, but that
the film "wasn't the greatest and wasn't the worst." It was okay.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes