Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen stars as C.W. Briggs, the top insurance investigator in New York in 1940 – or so he keeps telling the firm’s new efficiency expert, Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). Briggs prides himself on being able to crack any insurance caper by getting into the mind of the thief, but now, thanks to the hypnotic powers of a mysterious hypnotist, the mind of a thief is getting into Briggs. When it appears that Briggs has become a jewel thief, it is his office nemesis who comes to his aid.
Well, here’s one of those days where it must be getting a bit chilly in Hades. I’ve just seen a Woody Allen film that didn’t have any foul language, not even his idiosyncratic misuse of Jesus’ name at the end of each frustrated observation. Nor is there any religion bashing. Nor is he obsessed with philosophical analysis or his usual anxieties and neuroses. Wow! What we do get is a funny ‘40s detective excursion with the two leads at odds with one another until, under hypnosis, their hidden attraction for one another is revealed. It’s a funny premise aided by a strong supporting cast and Allen’s familiar self-effacing humor ….. Yes, there are a few suggestive sexual remarks, although some are mild and campy. And get this, there’s no gross-out humor. I was beginning to think today’s moviemakers could only manufacture laughs with the use of bodily functions. ….. Paying tribute to both film noir and screwball comedy, the bespectacled auteur captures us, maybe not with his best writing, but certainly with his usual absurd low-key style. And once again, he gives us an assortment of delightful characters, including a femme fetal, played to perfection by Charlize Theron as a cross between Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. Dan Aykroyd is a sleazy adulterer, but not with the usual Snidely Whiplash scene chewing you’d expect from such a character. Aykroyd always delivers. Here, he adds credibility to his role and good support to Allen’s unprepossessing schnook. ….. Helen Hunt, on the other hand, stumbles around as if looking for Paul Reiser to rescue her from a comic format she doesn’t quite comprehend. Appearing to not be at ease with improvisation, she fails to recreate the leading lady luster of, say, Rosalind Russell or Kate Hepburn. She looks uncomfortable most of the time and many of her lines lack that sarcastic panache needed to foil Allen’s wisecracking chauvinist (a writing characteristic usually prominent in Allen’s work). ….. A subdued Woody looks tired throughout, but still delivers a creative concept and a likable nebbish who manages to best the bad guys and get the girl, despite himself. ….. “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” couldn’t be placed in the same league with “Annie Hall,” “Hanna and Her Sisters,” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but you will get some laughs and without any offensive profanity or religious putdowns. And that’s rare in movie theaters these days. …..it’s sad the strong sexual overtones over-ride the otherwise fairly good content. For this reason, Dove cannot approve this film.