A Not-so-Sharp Sting for the ‘Jade Scorpion’

Jennifer Bernardo
El Vaquero Editor-in-Chief

Once again, people who gripe about older leading men playing opposite women who are decades younger will have something to moan about in Woody Allen’s latest opus, “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.” However, the age difference between the director/writer and Helen Hunt (30 years) is the least of its problems.

The story of an unlikely romance between Allen as C.W. Briggs, an insurance investigator, and Hunt as Betty Ann “Fitz” Fitzgerald, a newly hired efficiency expert in his office, is only good for a chuckle here and there.

There is some mildly funny dialogue but one is disappointed that it doesn’t get better.
Hunt’s role of a tough-as-nails career woman is ineffectively delivered as she lamely mouths such lines as “Don’t let the door hit you.” The squabble between Briggs and Fitz becomes tiresome after 10 minutes of listening to Hunt’s half-felt insults. The chemistry between them is simply nonexistent.

And save for an occasional funny line like “I couldn’t stand you when I met you and I can’t stand you now,” Allen’s signature witty dialogue is missing from the movie.

The movie develops when the pair and their co-workers find themselves in a nightclub for a birthday celebration. The club hypnotist, Voltan (David Ogden Stiers) puts the pair under the hypnotic spell of the Jade Scorpion, which, to the amusement of their friends, compels to fall madly in love.

As a series of burglaries occur later in the movie, the audience is treated to one amusing character: Laura Kensington. Charlize Theron plays the Veronica Lake lookalike, a lusty and smart-mouthed dame.

Although a minor player, Kensington’s interaction with Briggs was a lot more fun to watch than that between Briggs and Fitz.

Allen likes to set his films – like “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and “Bullets Over Broadway” – in the pre-World War II era. “Jade Scorpion” is set in 1940 and it is pretty to look at. It’s just a bit of a drone to the ears.

It chugs along for 103 minutes as you watch the characters drink and smoke, making you wish you were doing the same thing or were somewhere else.