The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Dan Aykroyd, David Ogden Stiers.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
October 13, 2001

This review remains my last bit of unfinished business from before 9/11. I almost don't want to let it go, but this should be done in the spirit of Woody Allen, who just wants to keep people entertained. Thankfully, he does just that with this film.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is Allen's attempt to simultaneously pay homage and parody the 1940s film noir genre, as he has done with several other genres and individual films. Woody returns to the role of the unlikely romantic hero: an insurance investigator, this time. His old-fashioned methods causes him to butt heads with his office's new efficiency expert (Helen Hunt), who just happens to be sleeping with their manager (Dan Aykroyd).

At a corporate dinner, they are entertained by a hypnotist (David Ogden Stiers), who gives both Allen and Hunt a post-hypnotic suggestion to follow his commands after they hear the words "Constantinople" or "Madagascar". At the dinner, he suggests that they are in love, but he later uses the power to force Allen into robbing his own clients. Subsequently, Allen has to investigate the robberies, not knowing that he is actually trying to hunt himself down.

Allen's films may be getting less credible in his later years (for instance, his ability to potentially get Hunt, Charlize Theron, and Elizabeth Berkley in bed), but he still knows how to make it funny. Along with Small Time Crooks, this film shows that Allen is now more interested in making comedy on his own terms without having to pretend he's Bergman or Fellini. Here, he's just having fun dressing up in a fedora and trenchcoat, spouting witty banter with some of today's best comic actors.

If this is the beginning of Allen's final phase as a filmmaker, then we can expect two things. First: his best work is behind him, and everybody else can hold their breath indefinitely for another Annie Hall or Manhattan. Second: his work in the future will try, if nothing else, to be entertaining, and people should just enjoy it while it lasts.

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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan