ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  woody allen

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  103 minutes

RELEASED  -  24 august 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  dreamworks pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the jade scorpion

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $26,000,000
the curse of the jade scorpion - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the curse of the jade scorpion at

buy the dvd from the curse of the jade scorpion at

allen stars as cw briggs, the top insurance investigator in new york in 1940, but now, thanks to the hypnotic powers of the jade scorpion, the mind of a thief is getting into briggs.

goof: when c.w. first meets the coopersmith brothers, the reflection of the boom mike can clearly be seen in the upper right-hand side of one of the windows.


picture from the curse of the jade scorpion

picture from the curse of the jade scorpion

picture from the curse of the jade scorpion


two out of four possible stars

If you go see this movie, looking for funny jokes and that witty atmosphere always present in Woody Allen films, you'll wait for an hour and forty-two minutes before you'll see something classically woody. It's amazing, but I sat in the theater watching this film wondering when the movie would become funny and realized about fifteen minutes into the film that it just wasn't going to happen. And at the end of the movie, oh, say minute one hundred and two, it got funny. In fact, this movie has the best sixty second ending I've seen in a long time.

But the price of a movie ticket is too much to pay for this funny ending, given that you have to suffer for a hundred minutes before that. Now, I was willing to give the actors in this film the benefit of the doubt because they were starring in a Woody Allen movie, but Helen Hunt gave a strangly uneven performance in this film. She started out as a very annoying woman who's been hired to streamline the insurance agency where Woody's character of "CW Briggs" works. And by the end of the movie she's only moderately annoying, but annoying nonetheless. She seems to have recycled her character from As Good As It Gets. Annoying, whiny and bothersome.

The selection of supporting cast members really wasn't too fantastic either. In fact, it's not even interesting. These actors just hover around normal. And even Woody Allen's usually side-splitting writing cannot save these performers from making this mediocre script into something worth a ticket to see it on the big screen. Under normal circumstances, I would expect more from this cast, but i believe that they were working under duress. There was no way for those actors to know that their efforts would result in a film that just doesn't click. They weren't able to make the film into something quirky like Mighty Aphrodite or Annie Hall.

And that's too bad. because the basic plot is pretty good. And the era is always a safe bet for a period movie. The costumes, the music, and the scenery are all fun to look at. But there's just something missing from this film. Perhaps it's just that it's not really a cohesive story. The acting is somehow not enough to bring this film to fruition. And the comedy that's usually a staple in most Woody Allen films just does not click with this movie. And whose fault is this? It's probably Helen Hunt's fault. She plays the quintessential new yorker: annoying and unapologetic for her actions. This isn't like woody allen's take on New Yorker life. He, at least, is funny with his neurosis and sayings.

Helen's attempts at comedy don't really work. There's this running gag throughout the movie where whenever allen leaves a room, hunt shouts something after him like "don't forget to wait for the elevator because you might fall down the elevator shaft and break your neck and fall into a coma and never wake up." Now, this is just a paraphrase, but each time Woody leaves the room, Helen says something like this. It's like a joke that's too long. And it wasn't funny the first time she went off into her mini-rant, and it wasn't the fifth time she did it. She's just not funny and the speeches she has are just too long.

And with these problems with the main characters, stems the rest of the problems with the cast. It's like no one in this film really belongs in the roles they inhabit. Dan Aykroyd isn't too convincing in his boss of the office character who happens to be involved with Helen Hunt's character. He does a fine job playing the boss, but he doesn't have any chemistry with Hunt either. and Elizabeth Berkley plays a ditsy secretery who doesn't really add anything to the picture. Possibly the only interesting character in the film is played by Charlize Theron. Her character, "Laura Kensington" is a classic 1940's seductress who, for some reason, finds herself attracted to Woody Allen's character.

Charlize is able to pull this small role off pretty well, having both the beauty and the cadence of speech necessary to make her character believable. But a final barn in the side of this movie is the style of the cinematography and editing. Usually, Woody Allen's pictures have that very unobtrusive look to the camera work. there isn't a lot of cuts and edits in each scene. He seems to let the actors do the work in creating the scene, rather than using edits every few seconds. And in reality, there's usually no reason to have a lot of cuts in his films because they're not action oriented. The camera might run without a cut for three or four whole minutes.

But Scorpion kind of hovers in the middle. It tries to look like a regular film with edits in all the right places, but this style is not consistant. Sometimes there will be a a scene where there are no cuts. The camera just moves around a little bit, allowing the actors to do their work. But in other scenes, there is an abundance of cuts. This disrupts the flow of the film. It's like it can't figure out what it wants to be.

Now, given that I've just spent the whole page criticizing every element of this film, I do have to reiterate my belief that the last sixty seconds of this film is one of the best endings in film that I've seen in a while. It's not the story of the ending, but rather the acting in the very end. It's just really hilarious and it's the only time I really laughed during the entire film.

My suggestion? Wait for Blockbuster, rent it, and fastforward it to the end . . .

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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