Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by:Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers
Released: March 28, 2002
Grade: A-

Woody Allen’s appearance at last week’s Academy Awards was perhaps the highlight of the show.  The man is an enigma.  Hollywood stars are queuing up to star in his hilarious screwball comedies.  He is infamous for shooting all his movies in New York City.  Remember in Seinfeld when Kramer was excited to have a line in a Woody Allen Movie - “these pretzels are making me thirsty?”  Allen’s witty style has amassed 19 Academy Award nominations (he has won 3) but so few people have had a chance to appreciate his works.  His films have low-key releases and The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion is only screening in Brisbane at the Palace Centro so make sure you see it before it’s too late.

It’s 1940 and C.W. Briggs (Allen) is a leading detective at an insurance agency.  The boss, Chris Magruder (Aykroyd), has recently hired Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Hunt) to “streamline” the office and she’s got plans to outsource the firm’s detective wing leaving Briggs without employment.  Suffice to say, relations between C.W. and Betty are a little frosty.  He’s a “wormy little ferret” and she “needs a good old fashioned roll in the hay”.

The two are both at an after-work function when they selected to appear on stage by a magician named Voltan (Stiers).  He hypnotises them and when the words “Constantinople” and “Madagaska” are uttered, the two fall into a deep hypnotic trance and feel madly in love with each other.  Neither can remember the incident but both find themselves involved in an elaborately creative jewel heist.

Voltan never released C.W. and Betty from the hypnotic spell.  He calls C.W., says the magic word and then asks him to steal security plans from work and use them to rob the homes of the firm’s wealthy clients.  After two robberies in as many nights, the evidence begins mounting against C.W. but he has no idea why he is being suspected and is out to clear his name.

Jade Scorpion is a delightful comedy.  The jokes wear out in the final half-hour but watching Allen and Hunt play off each other in their one-on-one scenes is the clear highlight.  I never realised there were so many ways of expressing one’s hatred for another - it’s hilarious.  Allen gets the best of the jokes and others like Dan Aykroyd and Charlize Theron seem wasted but hey, I’m not complaining.

The films follows the style of all Allen’s other works - another plus.  The old fashioned music, the old style credits, the old style editing process.  It’s a throw back to classic Hollywood - a fact I appreciate even more today when faced with “new age comedies” such as Not Another Teen Movie and Sorority Boys screening next door.  Help me!

As regular as clockwork, Allen makes one film a year.  He’s currently putting the finishing touches on his next film, Hollywood Ending, which is a story about a former great director who gets a chance to redeem himself late in his career with a final big picture.  But he goes blind due to paranoia and so he and a few of his friends conceal the disability from studio executives so that he can keep directing the film.  Now do you understand what I mean when I say Allen’s comedy stylings are above anything else currently being offered?