The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

There is something very funny in Woody Allen's latest film, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Not necessarily the jokes in the movie itself, but Allen and his penchant for younger leading ladies. Is he purposely having his womanizing character fall in love with Helen Hunt, Elizabeth Berkeley, and Charlize Theron because he thinks it's funny? Hard to tell. Instead, all the audience sees is a very old (but extremely talented) man possibly living out his fantasies, again and again in the movies. In terms of quality, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion isn't great for an Allen movie. It has a tepid premise and the jokes begin to wear thin.

Allen (Small Time Crooks, Company Man) is CW Briggs, the top insurance investigator in a 1940s firm. Even for that era, his coworkers believe that Briggs' views on women are obsolete. So when his boss Chris Magruder (Dan Akroyd, Evolution, Pearl Harbor) hires Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Hunt, What Women Want, Cast Away), an efficiency expert, everybody knows things will not be good. Of course, they hate each other initially. Briggs' friends think it will be funny to have the two hypnotized at a party, and believe that they are husband and wife. Voltan (David Ogden Stiers, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Tomcats) implants each with a key word that causes the person to believe he/she is deeply in love with the other.

The problem is that Voltan is a thief, and is using his trigger to cause Briggs to steal from his clients. The crimes are baffling to everybody, because they occur without a hitch. Briggs soon becomes the prime suspect. However, he believes he is innocent because he has no memory of the crimes. He believes the only person he can turn to is Fitzgerald, since she hates him so much. Fitzgerald believes he is innocent, and the two spend way too much time together. Allen writes many inspired sequences, but they never fully realize themselves. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is just not that funny. Things do not move that quickly, even after people begin to realize that hypnosis is the key. Much of the banter between Allen and Hunt feels forced, as if Allen is striving for something he cannot reach.

The best aspect of the movie is that the Allen's dialogue and his direction. All the actors speak and move in a manner reminiscent of that era. It seems slightly unnatural by today's standards, is a wonderful complement to the settings and helps make the surroundings and time period come alive. Allen's comedy treads the line between annoying and hilarious. Depending on how he writes his script, he can wildly swing one way or the other. Here, sadly, Briggs comes off as annoying. The usual celebrity quotient present in his films also seems lower than usual, both in number and in reputation. Maybe the big stars realized that this wasn't such a great film and avoided it. The ones that are here are only on screen for limited amounts of time. This is also the first film for Allen after a nasty business split from longtime producer Jean Doumanian, so maybe his mind was on other things.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexual content.

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