Tuesday, March 16, 2010

They CAN'T make them like they used to

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
Starring: Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, and David Ogden Stiers
Director: Woody Allen
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

An insurance investigator (Allen) becomes an unaware, remote-controlled jewel thief after a clever crook (Stiers) hypnotises him. To clear his name, he turns to a female executive at his firm (Hunt), but the situation only gets worse because she has also been hypnotized by the same crook.

"The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" features a screenplay that might have been written in 1939. The goofy comedy/mystery plot, the patter, the humor, the romantic entanglements, the pacing of the film... it's all a throwback to the period in which the story is set. Unfortunately, the one thing that isn't up to the cinematic period this film is a homage to is the acting.

Don't get me wrong. The acting here is decent enough for a modern movie, but it's not the kind of acting the script and the film needed (never mind that the director and screen writer are the same person). This material calls for talents like John Howard, Heather Angel, Cary Grant, Bud Abbott, and Katharine Hepburn. The problem is, there simply aren't actors like them anymore, although there are a small handful who come close. None are cast in the leads here, however.

"The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" tries to be a movie of the kind they, literally, don't make anymore. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

In the end, it's a film that Woody Allen fans will appreciate (I suspect... I'm not a big fan of his work myself, so it's hard for me to judge), but fans of the lighthearted mysteries from the 1930s and 1940s it's emulates (like me) will be disappointed, as the film is nowhere near as good as the potential in the script.

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