The Curse of the Jade ScorpionAugust 24, 2001
An insurance investigator and an efficency expert who hate each other are both hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist with a jade scorpion into stealing jewels.
Release Year: 2001
Rating: 6.7/10 (19,370 voted)
Critic's Score: 52/100
Stars: Woody Allen, John Tormey, John Schuck
CW Briggs is a veteran insurance investigator, with many successes. Betty Ann Fitzgerald is a new employee in the company he works for, with the task of reorganizing the office. They don't like each other – or at least that's what they think. During a night out with the rest of the office employees, they go to watch Voltan, a magician who secretly hypnotizes both of them, in order to use them for his dirty schemes. The next evening already, Briggs makes his first robbery, and when he wakes up in the morning he has no memory of it. Things get really complicated when he starts investigating the case. Will he be able to uncover… himself?
Betty Ann Fitzgerald
Lunch Delivery Man
(as Phil Levy)
Rainbow Room All Star
Release Date: 24 August 2001
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $2,459,315
(26 August 2001)
(14 October 2001)
Did You Know?
With its production budget of $26 million, this is Woody Allen's most expensive film.
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
When being introduced by Voltan in his act at the nightclub, C.W. says he works for North Coast Casualty and Fidelity Insurance Company. The office door, however, reads North Coast Fidelity and Casualty Insurance Company.
I'm going to slip into something more comfortable.
What, Jergens lotion?
Delightful tribute to films of old
I usually do not read movie reviews prior to actually seeing a film. This
has a tendency to influence what I think, or even how I watch a movie. I
made the mistake of reading a few reviews of The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
before I watched it. As I watched Woody Allen's latest opus, a tribute to
the quick-witted screwball' comedies of the late 1930's and early 1940's,
found myself mentally arguing with the reviewers. The very issues they had
with this movie were some of it's greatest features.
The plotline for Scorpion is simple. Allen portrays an old school'
insurance company detective with a fantastic record for solving his cases.
Helen Hunt is a `streamlining expert' brought in to bring the insurance
company in-step with the `modern world' of the 1940's. Allen and Hunt's
characters are like water and oil. The two are hypnotized (with a Jade
Scorpion used to induce the trance, hence the title) in a stage show, and
later the hypnotist calls on Allen to steal the very jewels his company
insures; Allen has no knowledge he has done this. The fun ensues as Allen
attempts to find the person responsible for the thefts. While this is an
over simplification of the actual story, the actual story is perhaps too
simple and predictable as well, but this is not the reason people go to
Woody Allen movies. It is the well written dialog that fits each person
delivering the lines; the meticulous attention to detail of a period movie
that works like a time machine transporting the audience on a trip to sixty
years in the past; the unpredictable humor that fills each predictable
twist. These are things that makes this movie work.
One review criticized the casting of Allen in the lead role. Allen, now
`was not believable in a romantic lead', and the critic went on to suggest
that another actor should have been used. This thought was swimming
my mind throughout the two hours of the movie. Allen was perfect for the
role. His character, C.W. Biggs, is an aging insurance investigator, with
few redeeming characteristics. He is not supposed to be handsome or
attractive. Yes, the Wood-Man is getting old, but it works for the movie.
There are some unflattering shots where we see his Godfather-like jowls.
This is not the same thirty-something guy from Bananas or Sleeper; he is a
sixty-something old man. We need to accept this. It is apparent that the
filmmaker has accepted this for himself, and tailored the film to work with
this in mind. Helen Hunt's Betty Ann Fitzgerald can't stand C.W. in any
way, and it is only after Volton (David Ogden Stires) hypnotizes her in a
magic show does she not show that she loathes him. Sexy and rich socialite
Laura Kensington, portrayed by the beautiful 26 year-old Charlize Theron,
attracted to Biggs because he the antithesis of her past conquests:
something new and different. Sure, he could have cast someone else,
Jason Alexander, into his Biggs role. While it would have certainly made
entertaining movie, there would have been something lost. Woody needs to
in Woody Allen movies. It just works.
Another critic panned the casting of Elizabeth (Saved by the Bell,
Showgirls) Berkley with such actors as Helen Hunt, Dan Aykroyd, Wally
et al. True enough, Berkley's acting talents do not match up with the
I mentioned; but the casting of Berkley for the minor role of office
secretary Jill' is perfect nonetheless. Allen's attention to detail
be overlooked. I first noticed in his 1987 film, Radio Days, just how
detail oriented he can be. As a musician, and something of an aficionado
vintage musical instruments, I always look for anachronisms in period
when a band is featured. I can usually tell the year a wind instrument was
made just by looking at it. Not only were all of the instruments true to
the time portrayed, the label on the mute (a Humes and Berg Stonelined')
used by a trombone was correct for the period. One off the shelf in a
store today looks identical, except for small differences in the label. I
was amazed that this level of detail was made. I am convinced this level
detail was made in the casting as well. This movie is not only set in New
York in 1940, but also as a Hollywood movie made in 1940; clichés common to
movie making of the time abounded. I believe the casting of Berkley in her
role is another one of these details. A movie made in that time would have
featured headliners from the stable of lead actors from a movie studio, or
perhaps one loaned from another. These would be people in the roles Allen,
Hunt and Aykroyd had. The role of the office secretary would not have been
filled by a star, but by one of the studio's contract players sent to the
production by central casting. There were many young, gorgeous actresses
with questionable acting talent that were picked up by a studio in hopes of
her developing into the flavor-of-the-week, or maybe for just a ride on the
casting couch. Elizabeth Berkley filled this role flawlessly. She hit her
marks, said her lines, and that's about it. I think it is just what the
writer / director wanted.
The ensemble cast all delivered credible performances. Like a film of the
time, the only performances that stand out are those of the leads; it is
Woody Allen and Helen Hunt's movie, as it should be. (William Powell and
Myrna Loy stand out in front of the cast of 1934's The Thin Man, who
remembers Nat Pendleton or Minna Gombel?) Dan Aykroyd plays an adulterant
Insurance Company C.E.O. in much the same way as his dramatic performances
in Driving Miss Daisy or My Girl: understated and credible. He allows the
writing to do the comedy for him, without having to work at it. Charlize
Theron's (Cider House Rules, The Astronaut's Wife) roll is smaller than her
on-screen presence. She makes for a perfect 1940's screen vixen. David
Ogden Stires always gives a good performance, and was able to shake the
shadow of M*A*S*H's Maj. Winchester for a dead-perfect evil magician.
Wallace Shawn in a Woody Allen movie is like having ice cream on a slice of
cherry pie; always a welcome presence. You may also see a familiar face or
two but can never place the name; John Schuck, a veteran movie and
television actor (Sgt. Charlie Enright on TV's McMillon and Wife) is one of
them. It is apparent that the writing was crafted for the star players,
terrific casting took care of the rest.
Movies can be many things. Some can inspire, some can be extremely
poignant. Others can just simply entertain. The Curse of the Jade
falls under the entertaining types. A perfect diversion as a weekend
matinee, or as a follow-up to a nice dinner out, Scorpion does not make use
of low-brow humor and stays true to the 1940's flair the movie, itself,
With romantic interests like Helen Hunt and Charlize Theron, Woody Allen
gives all men hope as we get older.