CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, THE
It’s 1940 and CW Briggs (Woody Allen) is the company’s top insurance investigator, who clashes violently with the newly hired efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), who is having an affair with the married boss, Chris Magruder (Dan Aykroyd). So it’s a real hoot when at an office party, CW and Betty Ann are hypnotised on stage by Voltan (David Ogden Stiers) and his Jade Scorpion, and made to believe they’re married. Back at work, CW is baffled when two rich homes are smoothly relieved of their pricey jewellery, Briggs has cracked every heist insurance claim he’s come across – until now. What he doesn’t know is the crucial role played in the heists by the Jade Scorpion.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you dig tunes like Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady or Hoagy Carmichael’s Two Sleepy People, and you like to laugh at Woody Allen’s gags, this is a cackle of a film, full of those great jazz standards and some classic Allen lines – especially good put downs and insults. (Take a pencil…) Built on a whim of an idea by Allen, the film’s strength is its lightness, its transparency as entertainment. It’s as if Woody Allen is practicing here for his second cinematic childhood, with repartee and routines that would do a tv sitcom writer proud. The film doesn’t have the sinewy satisfaction of, say, a Crimes & Misdemeanors, it’s more in the vein of his recent Small Time Crooks. Woody plays his conceited anti-hero fumbler with a refreshing energy, and his timing remains unique. Well supported by a quality cast, he elicits laughs and guffaws as well as smiles and grins. Shot mostly indoors, the glimpses of 1940 New York are nonetheless appealing while the overall production design and cinematography are ideal for Allen’s purposes.
Review by Louise Keller:
He may be looking a little older, but there’s nothing tired about Woody Allen’s humour and wit, which still sparkles with relentless energy and a beguiling sense of the ridiculous. A delightful and amusing interlude, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is a crime caper with a delicious twist. In fact, it occurs to me that it’s a little like watching Allen’s own fantasies on the screen. There he is, the centre of attention, kissing beautiful blondes and having the sort of escapades that we only dream about. Hypnotists, jewel thieves, desirable women…what an entertaining dream! And Allen cleverly entices us into his fantasy of illicit and romantic denied desires, and we feel a part of his world. I always enjoy good use of language and Allen uses words to their greatest effect, allowing them to colour our thoughts, tickle our fancies and touch our sensitive nerves. The story is simple, but it never runs out of ideas, keeping us chuckling constantly and reeling with delight from the never-ending one-liners. Lines like ‘I thought you’d appreciate the thick smoke so you wouldn’t have to put on so much make up’ or to the comment ‘Someone might think we’re together?’ a retort like ‘Why, do I look like an organ grinder?’ Ah, the many delights of a Woody Allen film. As to be expected, there’s a rather mellow, jazzy soundtrack, rich production design and a marvellous cast that melds together seamlessly. Allen’s neurotic, paranoid, verbose, foot-in-mouth with razor-sharp tongue insurance investigator has all the characteristics of – well - Woody Allen! And we can’t get enough of him. Helen Hunt is wonderful as the highly intelligent efficiency expert (think Kate Hepburn), while Charlize Theron dazzles as the divine femme fatale. Entertaining escapism guaranteed to make you laugh, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is an irresistible indulgence.
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CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION, THE (PG)
CAST: Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Hunt, Brian Markinson, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, Charlize Theron
PRODUCER: Letty Aronson
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
SCRIPT: Woody Allen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Zhao Fei
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Santo Loquasto
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 28, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 8, 2002