Friday, August 24, 2001

No big sting

Movie: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Posted on Fri, Aug 24, 2001 at 4:00 AM

Our Rating: 2.50

Woody Allen's latest film does involve a curse, but it's less the curse of a scorpion than one of awkward acting and heavy-handed one-liners.

"The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" has Allen again doing his typical schtick, this time as C.W. Briggs, an investigator for a New York City insurance company of the 1940s. Most of said schtick involves verbal sparring matches with new hire Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), an efficiency expert who arrives at the company to look into ways to modernize and improve its operations, much to the disapproval of C.W.

Into this rather predictable setting comes Voltan (David Ogden Stiers), a hypnotist who casts a spell on C.W. and Betty Ann at a party by uttering magic words that put them into a trance. By later repeating these words to the two unsuspecting accomplices, he forces them to steal jewels for him. It's a clever plot twist, considering that C.W. becomes the chief investigator on the case.

Sexual tension simmers just beneath the surface of most of the film's scenes, although it's difficult to get aroused by the prospect of the sultry Charlize Theron (who plays a wealthy seductress) bedding down with the aging Allen. The romantic games between C.W. and Betty Ann are more realistic, but realism isn't the brass ring Allen is chasing here -- it's humor.

What he ends up with instead comes across as trite. The script both spoofs and embraces the smooth-talking, cigarette-smoking world of "Double Indemnity," but "Curse" inherits little of that tradition's charm and all of its corn. Allen seems especially uneasy in his role, as if he knows that his intellectual but slightly askew humor isn't working as well as it normally does. And Hunt, despite giving the film's best performance, is too naturalistic to blend with Allen's stand-up routine, or with co-star Dan Aykroyd's dry caricature of a 1940s businessman.

Allen's best films of late are the ones in which he is not the star, including "Bullets Over Broadway" and "Sweet and Lowdown." He's not a bad actor, but his performances often upstage his directing style, which remains one of the most intelligent in Hollywood.

Still, Allen is often the best actor to deliver his own lines. (Two new standouts: "Never bet on a horse that has Parkinson's" and "Germs can't live in your bloodstream -- it's too cold.") It's these witty retorts -- and the story's plot twists -- that give the film its meager energy. But for a movie with such an exotic title and interesting premise, this "Scorpion" is disappointingly lifeless.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation