← Back to Reviews

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen had one of his stronger comic romps with 2001's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, that featured Woody's usual clever story and dialogue, but was slightly hampered by a really unlikable leading lady.

Woody plays CW Briggs, an insurance investigator in 1940 Manhattan who has a hate/hate relationship with the company's efficiency expert, Betty Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). CW and Betty are brought onstage at a nightclub by a hypnotist named Voltan (David Ogden Stiers) who puts them under with post hypnotic suggestions where they think they are in love. It turns out that Voltan is a jewel thief in addition to a hypnotist and uses the post hypnotic suggestions to make CW and Betty break into fancy homes and steal jewelry for him.

Setting this tale in the year 1940 was an inspired move by Allen because his style of writing seems more suited for the 40's than for the New Millenium. The screenplay is rich with dialogue that one would normally find in a Humphrey Bogart mystery or a Howard Hawks comedy. The story moves like a Howard Hawks comedy. Just enough exposition to introduce the characters and the story efficiently shifts into gear. The story leaves what appears to be a dangling plot point but was surprisingly picked up during the final third of the fil

The Betty Fitzgerald character was the only fly in this cinematic ointment. She is set up as immediately unlikable and Briggs' attraction to her doesn't really make sense, even though it is initially hidden under a lot of obvious hostility. Betty never gives CW a break, thanks to the previously mentioned dangling plot point, but once it's picked up, Betty becomes a little more human. Even having her in a dead end affair with the married president of the company (Dan Aykroyd) fails to imbue the character with the sympathy it should. Admittedly, as the film progressed, the possibility came about that the problem might have been a lack of chemistry between Allen and Hunt, not CW and Betty.

As always, Woody's attention to production values is wonderful, with special shout outs to art direction, costumes, and Woody's flawless ear for music. Though Woody Allen and Helen Hunt never really gel as a couple, Dan Aykroyd brought the proper smarm to the boss, making him totally hissable. Also loved Stiers as the hypnotist, Wallace Shawn as one of CW's co-workers and Charlize Theron as an authentic 40's femme fatale. Not as good as Bullets Over Broadway, but a pretty sharp Allen period piece.