The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/12/2002

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Not disastrous but still sub-par Woody Allen – it looks great and the script is good but the pace feels sluggish and Allen’s really getting too old for the romantic lead…

It’s taken almost a year and a half for Woody Allen’s ‘latest’ film to get a release over here – in fact he’s already completed at least one other film in that time (Hollywood Ending, due…well, who knows?) Sadly, the wait hasn’t been worth it, as The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion is distinctly average, despite some nice ideas and some impeccable set design work.

The film is set up as an affectionate nod towards various 1940s film genres, including ‘B’ movie thrillers, screwball comedies and Spencer Tracy / Katherine Hepburn movies. Set in 1940s New York, Allen stars as ageing insurance investigator CW Briggs, who clashes with Helen Hunt’s “efficiency expert” when his boss (Dan Ackroyd) employs her to streamline the office.

Sinister Hypnotist

In time-honoured fashion they hate each other at first but gradually…well, you can probably guess. The plot takes a more interesting turn, however, when they are both hypnotised as part of a stage act, which causes them to reveal their true feelings for each other but also turns them into the pawns of sinister hypnotist Voltan (a great turn by David Ogden Stiers as a ‘B’ movie villain), who uses them to steal the very jewels they’d been assigned to protect.

Not surprisingly there are tonnes of film references, the best of which is almost certainly Charlize Theron’s Lauren Bacall impersonation. The supporting cast are good, particularly Ackroyd and Stiers, but it’s definitely reached the point where it’s embarrassing to watch the 67 year old Allen putting the romantic moves on women half his age.

Complete Lack Of Chemistry

In fact, this is a huge problem with the film in general – there’s no chemistry between Hunt and Allen at all and you constantly find yourself wondering how much better the film might have been had Allen cast someone else in the lead (as he did in both Bullets Over Broadway and Celebrity).

Similarly, though the script crackles with the usual flow of one-liners, the pacing seems very slow. It ought to be snappy and delivered at double-speed, His Girl Friday-style, but instead it barely manages a slow crawl.

That said, it looks wonderful, thanks to a combination of impressive photography and meticulous set design work. And, though he may not be on top form, a Woody Allen comedy is still a damn sight better than most Hollywood comedies. Worth seeing if you can stomach the sight of Woody kissing his co-stars…

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 06:33

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