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The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

Im Bann des Jade Skorpions

Love stings

Directed by:

Woody Allen

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 103 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: Germany, United States

Sure, he’s knocking on a bit, and the perennial pursual of young bits of skirt might have long since progressed from slightly inappropriate to just plain creepy, but Woody Allen has still got it.

That was the one resounding thought in my mind after watching the belated DVD release of ‘The Curse of the Jade Scorpion’, Allen’s fun, silly and swiftly-paced tribute to both the crime and comedy classics of the 1940s. It’s set at the turn of that decade, where everyone’s favourite goggle-eyed New York midget plays self-centred insurance investigator CW Briggs. He’s on a work night out when a Paul McKenna-style stage hypnotist (David Ogden Stiers) pulls him up to the front of the room, along with new boss and sworn enemy Betty Ann (Helen Hunt). The public humiliation that follows for the pair all seems like good fun, of course – that is until Mr Hypnotist neglects to snap them out of their trance, instead using his power over them to have them run around town nabbing expensive jewellery, without ever remembering anything about it the next morning.

Before long, CW has been hired by his own company to snoop into a string of thefts which he himself is the unwitting culprit of. And, when it becomes obvious that all the clues point squarely in his own direction, he becomes a man with one major problem on his hands.

Of course, the whole thing is completely ridiculous, but it also makes for some great, sparky entertainment. It’s not so much a spoof of old school madcap comedies as an attempt to recreate what people loved about them: the zany set-pieces, the farcical plot-line, the bouncing one-liners. And not only does Allen successfully capture the feel of such films, he’s also got the look spot on, from the clothes to the lighting to his direction itself.

While I’m the first to admit that I haven’t always been Allen’s biggest fan (some of his productions are – to put it kindly – an acquired taste), this is the sort of film that can be appreciated by both his die-hard supporters and those who normally treat his work with that little bit more trepidation. Certainly it bears all the Allen hallmarks, from the Manhattan-centric characters to the somewhat deliberate dialogue, but it’s also one of his most accessible movies in quite some time (if not ever).

It's Got: The Woodster making Charlize Theron feel all week at the knees, and Dan Aykroyd somehow managing to pull Helen Hunt – it must be becoming contagious!

It Needs: Everyone to look into my eyes, look into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, don’t look around my eyes, look into my eyes… you’re under.

DVD Extras Don’t you just hate those DVDs where the only extras are things you have to read? Well, this is one of them. It’s got cast and crew bios, and production notes. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Summary

This fun, screwball period comedy is about as good a starting point as budding Woody Allen fans could hope to come across.

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